Kabira Stokes has always been troubled by the things our society sees as disposable; she hates watching toxic heavy metals in used electronics being tossed into landfills, and she hates seeing people who’ve done their time in jail struggling to make a life on the outside. So in 2011, she founded Isidore Electronics Recycling, a for-profit company based on Los Angeles that helps keep dangerous waste from leeching into soil and groundwater, while at the same time providing job training to previously incarcerated people.
Stokes believes that the correctional system in the US is broken — in California alone, 61% of felons who’ve served their sentences end back up in the justice system within three years. (That number was higher when the company was founded in 2012 – the rate was nearly 70% at the time.) The high recidivism rate isn’t that surprising when you realize that many ex-cons are expected to re-enter society without any real job skills and without much social support in a system which often discriminates against job applicants with a criminal record. In much the same way that we routinely throw used electronics into landfills, Stokes believes we attempt to “throw away” people we find inconvenient.
For every 50,000 pounds of waste Isidore collects, one more employee can be hired. These workers are trained to destroy the data on the devices before recycling them or patching them up and reselling them so they can be used a second time. The harvested metals salvaged from these devices can be reused in other electronics, reducing the need for conflict minerals in war-torn regions. The company accepts all types of e-waste from LA residents, including computers, printers, cameras, cables, batteries, photo copiers, microwaves, phones, and more.