Most days, you’ll find Kyle Wiens, the chief executive of Atascadero’s iFixit, jetting off to London or New Zealand to be the first in line for new gadgets like Apple’s iPhone.
His company dissects the devices on iFixit’s Web site and shows users how to do their own repairs. They sell the parts and tools needed, with a goal of keeping the device out of the trash bin and saving customers money.
But iFixit has also made it a focus to prevent electronics waste. Runaway demand generates 20 million to 50 million tons of this highly toxic detritus each year, and it often ends up in the developing world, where it harms both the environment and the people who try to make a living by laboring to recycle it.
Wiens has flown to Nairobi, Kenya, to investigate and document the toxic dumps where the devices end up. E-waste contains lots of ugly stuff, including cadmium, mercury, lead and antimony.