Greencycling Gadgets For Cash

By: Jason Li

Environment , Specialist

Electronic waste, or “e-waste”, is an umbrella term for the electronic devices that have fallen into disuse. Electronic waste currently makes up over 70% of all toxic waste in America. However, according to the EPA, only around 28% of all e-waste is recycled properly. This leaves 72% of the 238.5 million TV’s, 444.4 million computers and tablets, and 1.75 million mobile phones that are sold every year to potentially add to our landfills and pollute our environments.

Recycling, reusing, and repurposing these devices is our best option. Aside from selling old mobile phones, there are all kinds of other things that can be done with old electronics – everything from using old phones to stop illegal logging, to turning your old computer into a media center.

Pretty much anything is better than just throwing your old electronics into the garbage. Start recycling, and help clean up our planet!

When I was 4 years old, my family immigrated to the United States from China. We moved to Northern California, where my parents started their own small business. My parents are both very hard workers, which is something that I grew to respect and incorporate into my own life. By the time I started high school, I had begun learning about entrepreneurship and social responsibility. I also came across the issue of discarded electronics, and realized that I could combine these things into a new enterprise.

During my sophomore year of high school, I founded iReTRON to combat the growing problem of e-waste in a way that was sustainable and gave people a real-world incentive to participate. I came up with the idea of paying people to send us their used cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices, which iReTRON would then make sure were recycled or reused properly. Since founding my company in 2011, I have had two investors provide me with $100,000 to support my venture, in exchange for a 20% stake in my company and any other that I start within the next five years. With their help, I can expand my method of recycling electronic devices further than I ever dreamed. To date, my website has logged more than 10,000 transactions and generated over $80,000 in revenue.

iReTron wants to change the world. One iPod, one cell phone, one tablet at a time. Our goal is to change the way we recycle and the way we look at our worn-out electronics. We are here to offer you an easy way to get rid of your old electronics responsibly and conveniently. Not only do we take out the guilt of throwing away your old iPod or cellphone, we'll even pay you for going green!

It is our purpose, and our promise, to provide a practical and rewarding way for people to let go of the out-dated or broken electronics and improve the world in the process.

Below is a list of supporting documents and different ways people can help:

PRIORITY #1: 1. Sell Us Your Electronic Device

At iReTRON, we buy a lot of different electronic devices. Everything from smartphones, tablets, and MP3 players, to calculators, e-readers, and more.

PRIORITY #2: 2. Hold An E-waste Collection

Many people have at least a small collection of electronic devices that they’ve accumulated over the years, but never use anymore. Other people simply throw away their unwanted devices in the trash, c

PRIORITY #3: 3. Raise Awareness

Despite how widespread smartphones and other devices are today, a lot of people might not think about what happens to their devices once they’re done using them.

  • Jason founded in his sophomore year of high school, acting as CEO from then onward. Jason has always cared deeply for the environment and has been a strong advocate for going green ever since the beginning of high school. He has been to many high schools, colleges, and festivals to create awareness for the e-waste crisis and how has been doing its part in lessening e-waste. He has been invited to many conferences and sustainability fairs such as TEDxTeen and The Green Festival. Aside from school and iReTron, Jason enjoys photography and cinematography. He has gone across the world to perform at piano concerts and also does wrestling and Judo.


Your Everyday Entrepreneur TEDxChicago

Being a college student with a two-million dollar business under his belt, one might think that Jason Li has all the right connections. However, Jason argues that in life, it's not about who you know, but who you don't know yet.

Jason Li is a first-year at the University of Chicago and an entrepreneur from California.

Jason developed a strong passion for environmental impact and entrepreneurship. After learning about the e-waste crisis, he wanted not only to do his part, but to turn ‘"going green" into a rewarding effort, rather than a burdensome task. With an initial loan of $2,000 from his father and $43,000 dollars won from various competitions, Jason decided to address the e-waste crisis and founded, a social enterprise that buys back, refurbishes, resells, and donates used electronics. As a successful 15 year old entrepreneur, Jason eventually found his way to ABC’s show, Shark Tank. Leaving with an investment of $100,000 from Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran, Jason grew his company to earn more than two million dollars in 2014. 

After coming to Chicago, Jason found a new passion in education and is currently working on building a new start-up,

Awards & Recognition

In The News

Q&A: Behind the scenes of 'Shark Tank' with Jason Li, FalconOnline, 3/17/2014. On March 14, senior Jason Li presented his business, iReTron, on the ABC reality TV show “Shark Tank,” which gives entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their ideas against five “sharks.” iReTron recycles and sells used electronics. Li received $100,000 in grant money from investors Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran, on the condition that they would own 20% of any business he made in the next five years. Read More

Interview with Jason Li, Teen Social Entrepreneur and Successful Participant of "Shark Tank", INNOV8SOCIAL, 4/12/2014. Jason's company, iReTron, buys back used electronics for a cash value, and then re-furbishes and re-sells or recycles the products. Jason was successful in raising his ask of $100K through an investment by Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban, for a 20% equity stake in his company plus 20% of any company he starts in the next five years. Read More

iReTron Pays Cash for Electronics, Shark Tank Success, 3/14/2014. How many old cellphones, iPhones, iPads, iPods, Mp3 players, calculators, e-readers, tablets or just about anything electronics, do you have lying around collecting dust? Well it's time to gather them all up and send them to the next young Shark Tank Entrepreneur, Jason Li, the owner of iRetron. Jason started buying and recycling used electronics in his freshman year at Saratoga High School. Now just a few years later in his senior year, Jason is ready to take iRetron's way of buying, selling and recycling used electronics into this episode of the Shark Tank Show. Read More

Teen Tycoons: Big Changes Fuel Growth, Vertical Growth, 1/30/2014. Back in 2012, we held a video contest to recognize and reward teen entrepreneurship, dubbed “America’s Next Teen Tycoon.” Jason Li, our grand-prize winner who nabbed $4,000 in cash, impressed voters and our judges the most with his electronics-recycling business, iReTron. Second-place winner Jack Uesugi, who earned $2,000 in startup capital from VerticalResponse, also captured tons of attention with his t-shirt design business, a1000x. Read More

Saratoga: Li ranks No. 25 on 'World's Smartest' teen list, Saratoga Mercury News, 11/04/2013. Jason Li's genius has never been in question. When this newspaper interviewed the 16-year-old in March 2012, he had just been named the "Next Teen Tycoon" after creating a startup that pays people to send in their old electronics and then either resells or recycles them. As part of his prize, Jason received $4,000 and a trip to New York City to attend 2013 TEDxTeen. While that may have been a major highlight of his high school career, it certainly wasn't the only one. Read More

15-Year-Old Student Fights the Electronic Waste Crisis with iReTron, MacLife, 5/10/2012. Jason Li, CEO of iReTron , is trying to save the planet, one electronic device at a time. That is, when he is not juggling the rigors of his sophomore year honors courses at Saratoga High School  and extra-curricular activities like wrestling, piano, judo, speech and debate club. Li is 15-years-old, and once we got over feeling depressed at how much we didn't accomplish in high school, we reached out to him for his story. Read More

iReTron, run by teen, will buy used gadgets, SFGate, 4/2/2012. The gadgets gathering dust in an old drawer could be worth something: Up to $47 for a classic iPod, $88 for a Blackberry Torch or $97 for a Kindle. That's the pitch from iReTron, a new website created by a 15-year-old high school sophomore to help people get rid of their old electronics. Read More

iReTron named the Next Teen Tycoon

Jason and at the CleanTech Open

Shark Tank

Shark Tank (Episode 516 on 3-14-2014) - Jason receives an investment of $100,000 in his company from TWO sharks. Jason's segment starts at the 8:47 minute mark.


Similar Innovations