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Dell Making Good on 'Legacy of Good' Plan with Carbon-Negative Packaging, Closed-Loop Plastics

Image credit: Dell

On Tuesday, Dell announced new sustainability initiatives that CEO Michael Dell called “the next milestone” in Dell’s 2020 Legacy of Good plan.

The electronics giant announced it is the first in the IT industry to introduce carbon-negative AirCarbonTM packaging, through a partnership with Newlight Technologies. Dell also is the first to use UL Environment-certified, closed-loop recycled plastics in the manufacturing of computers, in partnership with design manufacturer Wistron GreenTech. The independent, third-party verification of a closed-loop plastics process establishes the first industry standard for closed-loop materials and supports a circular economy for IT.

Dell’s 2020 Legacy of Good plan includes 21 ambitious sustainability and social goals the company is committed to reaching by 2020. The overarching goal is to ensure that the good that comes from Dell’s technology will be ten times what it takes to create and use it.

“We have a long-standing commitment to conduct our business responsibly,” the CEO said. “AirCarbon packaging and closed-loop recycled plastics are terrific innovations and big steps forward as we work with our customers and partners toward our 2020 goals.”

AirCarbon Packaging

Mark Herrema,
CEO of Newlight Technologies,
speaker at SB '14 San Diego

Dell’s new packaging is based on Newlight’s carbon-negative AirCarbon material, made from captured methane gas. The process sequesters more carbon than it produces, pulling carbon from the air and generating a net positive impact on the environment. AirCarbon has been independently verified by Trucost in cooperation with NSF Sustainability as a carbon-negative material on a cradle-to-grave basis.

Dell says its AirCarbon-based packaging will launch this fall beginning with the packaging sleeves around new Dell Latitude series notebooks. Dell is piloting AirCarbon packaging in the US and plans to extend it globally for use in both packaging and products. Dell's previous use of alternative packaging materials includes mushroom, bamboo and wheat straw that helped eliminate 20 million pounds of packaging and saved $18 million.

“Dell is using greenhouse gases that would otherwise become part of the air we breathe to replace materials traditionally made by oil,” said Newlight CEO Mark Herrema. “We commend Dell for being the first in the IT industry to introduce packaging that reverses the impact of climate change. Introducing greener packaging at a lower cost per unit than traditional oil-based plastics is good for the environment and Dell’s bottom line.”

Closed-Loop Recycling

Dell closed-loop recycling process
Click to enlarge infographic.

Dell’s new closed-loop supply chain, developed in partnership with Wistron GreenTech, will turn plastics from recycled electronics back into new systems, helping to drive a circular economy for IT. Dell will be the first company in the IT industry to use UL Environment-certified, closed-loop recycled plastic in a computer with the launch of the Dell OptiPlex 3030 All-in-One desktop, which will be commercially available in June. By reusing plastics already in circulation, Dell is cutting down on e-waste, saving resources and reducing carbon emissions by 11 percent compared with virgin plastics. Dell already offers free consumer e-waste recycling in 78 countries.

Dell's Michael Murphy,
speaker at
Sustainable Brands 2014
San Diego

“Dell and Wistron’s incorporation of closed-loop, post-consumer recycled plastics in the OptiPlex AIO line of computers is a significant step towards industry leadership in reducing e-waste,” said Lisa Meier, VP and general manager of UL Environment. “The content validation by UL Environment adds credibility and peace of mind for the purchasers and end users of Dell’s products, and highlights the company’s overall commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Dell also is the first to secure third-party certification from UL Environment for manufacturing with closed-loop recycled plastics. This first UL Environment certification of its kind verifies that Dell has exceeded the standard of a minimum of 10 percent of closed-loop, post-consumer recycled plastics in the chassis enclosure of all Dell OptiPlex 3030 All-in-Ones globally. Dell plans to use this closed-loop approach as a blueprint for reusing metals and other materials and to accelerate Dell’s goal of using 50 million pounds of recycled-content plastic and other sustainable materials in its products by 2020. 

"The challenges we face today require our industry to find new, more sustainable ways to do business,” said Michael Murphy, Dell’s Executive Director of Global Product Compliance & Environmental Affairs. “By putting plastics recovered through our take-back programs back to work inside new Dell products, we are able to help reduce electronic waste and provide the greener products that customers have come to expect from Dell. We hope the new standard outlined by UL Environment will encourage companies to rethink processes and help drive a circular economy for IT.”

UL Environment says its new Environmental Claim Validation Procedure, ECVP 2809, outlines the framework and process by which any recycled content and closed-loop recycled content claims are investigated and validated before a validation badge is issued. Achieving an ECV lends third-party credibility to manufacturers’ claims, while providing peace of mind to purchasers who are working to comply with green purchasing requirements.

In other AirCarbon news, last week Sprint announced a partnership with Newlight Technologies to use the material in its cell phone cases for the iPhone® 5 and iPhone® 5s, which will be sold online exclusively on beginning later this month. We have a feeling these are the first of many such partnerships for Newlight and you'll soon be seeing AirCarbon everywhere.

Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]

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