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Dell using carbon neutral and closed-loop recycled plastics in packaging, parts

By: Michael Lauzon

May 21, 2014

Computer giant Dell Inc. has lined up plastics partners to help it meet ambitious environmental goals.

The Round Rock, Texas, company said May 20 that it will use greener plastics in some of its packaging and recycled plastics in some computer parts production.

The new announcements build on a pledge Dell made last year to have a completely waste-free packaging stream by 2020, with packaging made of renewable or recyclable materials.

Dell now is looking to use a partnership with Newlight Technologies to use Newlight’s AirCarbon plastics beginning this fall for packaging sleeves for Dell’s new Latitude notebooks.

Newlight, of Irvine, Calif., has been working on plastics such as polyhydroxy alkanoates made by biochemical reaction of air with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon dioxide is generated in many industrial and power systems, while methane sources can come from landfills or wastewater treatment plants.

The Dell pilot project will involve about 500,000 package sleeves, estimated Oliver Campbell, Dell director of procurement for packaging and packaging engineering.

Dell touts AirCarbon as a carbon-negative material that sequesters more carbon than it produces to generate a net positive impact on the environment. Dell will pilot its use in the United States and eventually extend its use globally for packaging and other applications. The firm has been using bamboo and wheat straw that it claims cut 20 million pounds from its packaging needs.

“Introducing greener packaging at a lower cost per unit than traditional oil-based plastics is good for the environment and Dell’s bottom line,” said Newlight CEO Mark Herrema in a news release.

Earlier this month, Newlight announced it would supply AirCarbon plastics for iPhone 5 and 5s cases sold by telecom company Sprint.

At the same time, Dell has chosen Wistron GreenTech for a source of recycled  plastics recovered from electronics. It claims it will be the first company in the integrated technology industry to use Underwriters’ Laboratories-certified closed-loop recycled plastic in a computer.

Dell will launch its OptiPlex 3030 All-in-One desktop computer in June using the certified plastics. It expects to cut carbon emissions by 11 percent with the materials.

Dell will use recycled ABS for the stand and back plate of the computer/monitor. The company is able to make packaging and components in-house and also relies on outside suppliers, Campbell stated in an email correspondence.

The program will gain credibility by the materials’ UL certification, stated UL Environment vice president and general manager Lisa Meier. Dell has secured certification from UL Environment for manufacturing the OptiPlex computer with at least 10 percent recycled plastics in the chassis enclosure.

Dell will expand the closed-loop approach as a template for reusing metals and other materials in its aim to rely on 50 million pounds of recycled plastic and other sustainable materials by 2020.

Wistron GreenTech, a subsidiary of information technology supplier Wistron Corp. of Taipei, Taiwan, runs an operation in McKinney, Texas. Wistron also operates a plastics recycling facility in Kunshan, China.

At this time, Dell said it will use plastics recovered during separation processes done in China.

Newlight CEO Mark Herrema talks about his company's AirCarbon plastics in this video.