Digging through drawers and closets for old cell phones, electronics and computers could pay off in more ways than one.
You can recycle them and help the environment, and possibly earn cash through a new online vendor at the Exchange Online Mall called MilitaryRecycling.com.
Customers normally get discounts from merchants in the online mall. But in this case, you pay nothing — not even shipping — so there's nothing to get a discount on. However, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which manages the online mall, has negotiated with MilitaryRecyling.com to give military customers a better cash rebate.
MilitaryRecycling.com has agreed to give military-affiliated customers a 10 percent higher cash payout for recycled items. The payouts come in the form of a Visa prepaid card, which you can use at most stores.
Here's how it works: You log on to http://www.aafes.com">http://www.aafes.com, http://www.usmc-mccs.org">http://www.usmc-mccs.org, http://www.navy-nex.com">http://www.navy-nex.com or http://www.cg-exchange.com">http://www.cg-exchange.com, then click on the Exchange Online Mall icon and go to MilitaryRecycling.com.
Tell the site what you want to recycle, and the site will come back with a cash offer.
In some cases, the item may not be worth anything on the resale market and you won't be offered a payment — but you still can send the item to be recycled.
If you agree to the offer, you print out a label and packing slip, box up the item and mail it. The company pays for shipping — even if the item is worth nothing.
That's a break for service members: The common practice in recycling is to charge for shipping if the materials cannot be resold.
"We wanted to make it very easy for our customers, without any cost to them," said Don Walker, AAFES online mall merchandise manager. "Things are getting tougher with the economy, and they can pick up some extra cash."
Walker said AAFES officials chose to use a Visa prepaid card for payment rather than an AAFES gift card because they didn't want to exclude people who are in locations where they can't use an AAFES gift card. (The exchange online store does not accept gift cards.) When you receive the Visa prepaid card, you'll also receive a coupon code for a discount at the exchange online store.
The company encourages you to erase any computer hard drive that you send. But even if you don't, the company erases all hard drives using standard Defense Department procedures.
What happens to your recycled items? Depending on the condition of the item, it either will be reused or broken down into raw materials that are reused.
No computer goes out the same way it came in. For example, it may go out in pieces in different computers, if it is recycled.
Overseas customers can use the site, too.