ORLANDO, FLA. — When it comes to using recycled plastics, IBM is putting its money where its mouse is.
The information technology giant's latest pro-recycling effort came in December, when it unveiled a version of its IntelliStation E Pro Desktop computer that uses 100 percent recycled resin for all of its major plastic parts.
``It looks just as good as anything we make,'' IBM's J. Ray Kirby said at Engineering Thermoplastics '99, an industry conference held Jan. 25-27 in Orlando. ``There's no difference if we're using prime or recycled content.''
Kirby, manager of IBM's Engineering Center for Environmentally Conscious Products in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said IBM used 675,000 pounds of recycled resin in its products in 1998 and has used more than 1.75 million pounds of recycled material since 1995.
For its efforts, IBM was recently awarded the 1998 Recycler of the Year award from the Plastics Recycling division of the Brookfield, Conn.-based Society of Plastics Engineers.
IBM uses recycled resins in 20 parts applications including internal and decorative parts and is completing qualification to use them in another 25. PVC makes up almost half of the recycled material IBM uses. Polyphenylene oxide and polycarbonate/ABS blends each make up an additional 25 percent.
IBM first used recycled resins in a decorative, noninternal application in 1993. The company's goal is to use at least 13 percent recycled content in other decorative applications.
The firm has a tracking system to identify new opportunities to use recycled material.
But Kirby acknowledged that IBM is bucking an industry trend that has moved away from recycling.
``Recycling has dwindled down and that's disturbing to the information technology industry,'' he said. ``It needs the help of a lot of people to make progress.''
In a recent example, IBM was unable to make a part out of flame-retardant recycled ABS because it couldn't find a supplier who could provide the volume the company needed.
Supply remains a challenge for recycled engineering resins, according to Patricia Dillon, a research associate with the Gordon Institute at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
``Availability of supply and quality of supply are issues even for smaller items,'' Dillon said.
Dillon added the issue seems to be improving somewhat as original equipment manufacturers choose to use recycled resins in smaller-volume parts and internal parts where cosmetic appearance isn't as much of an issue.