SoCal is tackling the e-waste problem head-on

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COMMERCE, Calif. – For many years, Jeanette Felix has focused on putting the pieces of her life back together.

“I was in a gang, I was drug addict, I went to prison and I repeated that quite often”, says Felix, 43 years old.


What would you like to know

  • Homeboy Electronics Recycling reuses “electronic waste” for recycling or reuse
  • They collect electronic devices from businesses or individuals can send in their old electronic devices using their postal electronic program.
  • The United Nations Global E-Waste Monitor has revealed that in 2019, more than 53 million metric tons of e-waste were produced globally
  • Their reused electronics are resold or go to communities and people who might have difficulty purchasing a computer otherwise

But things started to change for the Los Angeles native when she got involved with Homeboy Industries, an organization that supports former gang members and those formerly incarcerated by helping them find jobs and adjust. to life outside the prison system.

Felix started working for Homeboy Industries at their main location in downtown Los Angeles, but a little over a year ago, she landed a job in another division working in technology and technology. computing. Today, she works at Homeboy Electronics Recycling, one of nine social enterprises operated by Homeboy Industries.

The recycling center collects electronic waste, or electronic waste, and disposes of or reuses electronic devices for continued use.

“I’m learning all kinds of skills,” Felix said. “I never knew how a computer was put together. I learned that… we dissect the computer.

At Homeboy Electronics Recycling, which was acquired by Homeboy in 2016, graduates of its programs can work, train and develop their skills on both the recycling and tech side. Felix tests computers provided by individual donors or by companies that get rid of them because they improve their technology. Computers that still work are refurbished and then sold or donated.

Felix says working at the recycling center has been an eye-opening experience when it comes to waste.

“I go through the computers, and it’s like it’s usable,” she said.

Electronic waste is a growing global concern. According to the United Nations Global E-Waste Monitor as of 2020, more than 53 million metric tons of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2019. The amount of e-waste is increasing at a rapid rate as upgrades technologies continue at an equally rapid pace. .

The UN study found that only 17.4% of e-waste in 2019 was recycled. Most electronic waste ends up in landfills, creating hazardous environments due to the many metals and chemicals used in electronics.

Sanjay Mohanty, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UCLA, studies the impact of climate change and waste on water quality.

“When we think of most of our electronic waste, the smallest object, like a cell phone or computer chips, they use a lot of toxic metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium and hexavalent and chromium.” , did he declare. “These metals are very toxic, so it is very important to manage waste properly. “

Mohanty’s lab strives to find solutions to the waste problem by developing safe ways to remove and extract toxins, so that they become reusable. Mohanty says reusing materials is an important next step in conservation and waste management.

“Fifty years ago, landfill was the main means of waste management,” he said. “We can’t keep doing this because now we have more garbage and we don’t have a lot of space. So now what’s the best way to deal with waste? This is to prevent waste from ending up in landfills. “

And that’s Homeboy Electronics’ goal, to keep waste out of landfills. Every part of a computer, phone, printer, charger, or other electronic item is taken apart, properly recycled, and returned to service.

Felix noted that working with computers at the recycling center made her reflect on her own life and the tremendous progress she has made.

“I had to be brought back into society,” she said. “It’s like computers. It can sit on a counter for years until you polish it and really understand it and use it… When you put something in place, you put yourself back together too.”


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