Addressing Two Social Issues Through Entrepreneurship

As you all know, we are big supporters of better electronics recycling worldwide and providing better job opportunities for ex-offenders.  So it is great to see a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to address these two issues simultaneously through their firms.  According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, it is estimated that 20-50 million tons of discarded electronics are dumped into landfills around the world, mostly in developing countries, every year.  Also, prison activists advocate that recidivism among ex-offenders goes down when proper rehabilitation and re-entry training is offered while they are still in prison.  Ex-offenders with better job prospects fair better once out of jail.

A new study from the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling shows that “restricting exports of untested, nonworking electronics would create up to 42,000 American jobs with an annual payroll of up to $1 billion.”

While there is currently no federal law in the United States that restricts e-waste export, there are now a growing number of entrepreneurs creating e-waste related jobs for ex-offenders.  Kabira Stokes is a co-founder of the California-based Isidore Recycling Company, which mostly employs ex-offenders.

From KPCC:

…“I am a social entrepreneur at heart,” she says. “It seems like these problems that we’re presented with – specifically, a very broken correctional system and piling up amounts of e-waste – if we can try to tackle two of these problems at the same time, that’s a good idea.”…

…She says that the e-waste that isn’t dumped into landfills is shipped elsewhere, even overseas, where labor is cheaper and environmental regulations are more lax. She thinks processing this material in L.A. makes more sense because it creates more jobs here… 

Beth Williams is the president and CEO of Boston-based Roxbury Technology Corporation, which specializes in remanufacturing toner cartridges.  The company also hires ex-offenders.  According to toner optimization solution firm Preton Ltd., each year over 350 million cartridges are thrown away in landfills.  Each cartridge becomes 3.5 pounds of solid waste sitting in a landfill and can take up to 450 to 1000 years to decompose.

“I try to hire people who would otherwise not be able to get jobs,” Williams said recently at a Boston event.  “I’m giving people jobs and addressing a serious environmental problem at the same time.”

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