By William Rowen Healthy Roar staff | PAR-Recycle Works has two missions: The organization recycles electronic waste, and it also employs people who have spent time in prison.
Maurice Jones, PAR founder and general man- ager, told Healthy Roar reporters that PAR recycles “anything with a cord,” from laptops to phones. Businesses and individuals can either drop off their electronics at PAR’s facility in Philadelphia’s Nicetown section or schedule a pickup.
Mr. Jones says he started the organization be- cause he wants people who have been incarcerated to get a chance at a regular life. When people have been in prison, it can be hard for them to find a job when they are released, he says. This interview the Healthy Roar had with Mr. Jones has been shortened and lightly edited.
Question: What is a typical day of work like for you at PAR-Recycling?
Mr. Jones: My day starts at 7 a.m. I come and I unlock the doors and turn on the heat, make sure it’s nice and warm in here. I connect with the internet. I meet with my foreman to go over the workload for the day and any pickups or drop-offs that we have for the day. Then I jump into my emails and make phone calls to get more e-waste here. If it’s Monday or Tuesday, I’m doing payroll.
Question: Please explain the process of recycling.
Mr. Jones: Things have to be deconstructed, sorted, and separated. That’s what my staff does. They get the materials, they open them up as much as they’re able to, and then they pull all the materials out. We sell the materials to a smelter, where the precious metals used in the electronics are extracted.
Question: What is the most important job at your facilities and what makes it important?
Mr. Jones: The most important job is the foreman. The foreman is responsible for bringing the materials and inventorying [keeping lists of] the materials. This is part of government regulations. The foreman is also responsible for training our staff and selling the recycled materials so we can get paid.
Question: We learned that some e-waste contains toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic. What do you do to protect people at your facility?
Mr. Jones: We try to keep those types of materials out of our warehouse as much as possible. They’re treated as hazardous waste. We put it in a hazardous-waste container, and then that’s actually shipped out to a place where it can safely go.
Question: How do you know that you can trust the people that you hire?
Mr. Jones: How do you know that you can trust anybody that you come across? You don’t. So you take a chance that people are going to come and take advantage of what we’re trying to offer and the resources that we’re bringing to them. If somebody has come to us and is interviewing with us, they’ve had challenges with being employed in the traditional space. So it’s not necessarily about us trusting them. It’s more about helping them believe they can trust themselves.
Question: What can kids do to recycle their phones or other devices?
Mr. Jones: I encourage you to make them look like new. And make sure the devices have no personal information on them. You can bring it to a recycling center like ours. We’re actually going to have a new program that’s starting at some supermarkets. You want to make sure that any e-waste recycling bin is being handled by a certified recycler.
Question: What made you start employing formerly incarcerated individuals?
Mr. Jones: There’s a need. One of the largest barriers for individuals coming home from prison is getting a job. If they have employment, there’s a much better chance that they won’t go back to prison. We train people so they can find permanent jobs.