Recycling startup Redwood Materials is now accepting your old smartphones

Kirsten Korosec
·2 min read

Redwood Materials, the recycling startup founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, has quietly opened up its enterprise to everyday consumers and all of the old electronics sitting in their junk drawers.

The move expands upon the Carson City, Nevada-based company's existing and primary strategy to recycle scrap from battery cell production and consumer electronics for corporate customers like Panasonic and Amazon.

The startup has posted a "recycle with us" tab on its website, which states "Have lithium ion batteries or e-waste? We’ll recycle your phones, tablets, power tools and any other device with a lithium-ion battery." There isn't any more information on the website beyond an address, where consumers can send their e-waste, and a "contact us" button.

Straubel told TechCrunch in October that its business model could someday evolve to include consumers because they had received so many inquiries from people. It seems that Redwood has decided to take the leap.

Redwood Materials isn't setting strict parameters on what consumers can send, a spokesperson said, who confirmed the company is even taking cables. Redwood told TechCrunch it wants to hear from consumers and will determine over time how it might expand the program. For instance, the company said it might formalize the consumer program and add shipping boxes and labels to make the process easier.

For now, Redwood is going to open it up and see what happens.

The majority of lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and other consumer electronics are not recycled and instead either sit forgotten in the owner’s junk drawer or enter the waste stream and end up in a landfill.

Redwood Material is aiming to change that by creating a circular supply chain. Redwood collects scrap from Panasonic's battery cell production as well as consumer electronics such as cell phone batteries, laptop computers and power tools from other corporations. The company then processes the discarded goods, extracting materials like cobalt, nickel and lithium that are typically mined, and supplies those back to Panasonic and other customers.

Eventually, Straubel wants Redwood to be part of the end-of-life solution for electric vehicle batteries as well. The CEO has aspirations to set up facilities in strategic regional locations around the world to meet this need. For now, most of the items recycled and processed at Redwood's two facilities in Carson City are for Panasonic and other unnamed consumer electronics-related companies.