How E-waste and the Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Creating Jobs for Former Prisoners

Californian startup Isidore Electronics Recycling is turning electronic waste recycling into employment opportunities for people coming out of the criminal justice system.

Author Anna Rees, 01.30.17

Californian startup Isidore Electronics Recycling is turning electronic waste recycling into employment opportunities for people coming out of the criminal justice system.

Successfully reentering society after incarceration is beset with obstacles. A 2008 report from the Urban Institute found that social service providers consider gaining employment to be the primary factor in successful reentry. Yet finding a job, and overcoming the stigma attached to having a criminal record, can be extremely difficult for former inmates. The same paper found that 37 per cent of male prisoners in Cleveland had found full time work a year after reentry. Those that do find work generally occupy low-skill positions and are paid lower rates than they earned prior to their incarceration.

But what to do?

Well if you’re Isidore Electronics Recycling founder, Kabira Stokes, and you have a background in criminal justice reform and environmental governance, you develop an approach that makes sensible use of valuable resources, right through the supply chain.

Named after Saint Isidore of Seville (the patron saint of – believe it or not – the internet, computers and computer users), the company recycles electronic waste and offers employment to people who were previously incarcerated. Employees at Isidore’s recycling facilities safely take apart discarded electronic devices and remove any component or material – like gold or copper – that can be reused.

Isidore Electronics Recycling works with Chrysalis Enterprises, a non-profit that specifically looks to find work opportunities for people that face certain barriers when entering the workforce, namely people with a criminal record, a history of substance abuse, who are homeless, or low-income earners.

Reenter, Reuse, Recycle

Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing stream of waste worldwide, with a lot of old devices ending up in landfills, posing a serious threat to the environment. In fact, although e-waste accounts for around two per cent of the waste in landfills, it is responsible for 70 per cent of the toxins found there.

Customers looking to recycle their old electronics can drop them off at the company’s LA facility, request a pick up (at a charge) or leave them at one of Isidore’s collection events. Smaller items can recycled free of charge through the company, whereas larger items like a printer cost about 5 USD to recycle. Where possible, Isidore aims to refurbish and repair discarded electronic devices and put them back on the market. If a gadget has reached the end of its lifecycle, the company then works to extract any valuable materials so these can be repurposed into new devices. According to a video the company made with Uproxx, there are more rare earth metals (such as gold, copper and aluminium) sitting in landfills (thanks to so many electronic devices ending up there) than are left in known minable deposits. 

Isidore Electronics Recycling’s two-pronged approach to running a company is helping to address the ever-growing e-waste problem and providing a critical second chance to people who might otherwise struggle to find gainful employment. To learn more about the company, head to their website.

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