Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sony Corp. came to the Society of Plastics Engineers environmental conference with a message: recycled-content plastic in electronics can make sense.
HP unveiled plans to add recycled-content PET to some of its printers in the spring, and Sony said that all of its television sets made in the San Diego and Tijuana region have parts made from recycled-content high-impact polystyrene. Sony claimed it is the first TV manufacturer to use post-consumer plastic in a high-volume part.
Officials from the two companies spoke at SPE's Global Plastics Environmental Conference, held Feb. 13-14 in Detroit.
HP's process begins with the company taking back its inkjet cartridges and recycling them into either polysulfone or PET flake. The polysulfone is sold to the electronics industry, while the PET now will be reused in HP printer parts.
At the moment, the inkjet program is small - less than 1 percent of HP's cartridges are returned to the manufacturer. That is about 1 million pounds of resin in the United States, and about 3 million pounds worldwide, said Jay Celorie, product take-back and recycling manager for HP inkjet supplies in Corvallis, Ore.
The inkjet recycling program is not making money, but the company realizes it is making a disposable product and wants to do the right thing, he said. Celorie said HP's life-cycle analysis shows it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly to recycle cartridges than to incinerate them and recover the energy.
Ultimately, HP would like to close the loop and use the recycled cartridges to make new cartridges. But for now, the plastic is going into printer parts. HP is using a mix of 25 percent recycled PET from inkjet cartridges with 75 percent recycled PET from bottles, and putting 15 percent fiberglass into the new compound.
Unlike HP, Sony's stab at recycled content has saved the company money.
The recycled HIPS typically costs 13 percent less than prime virgin resin, said Douglas Smith, corporate director of environment, safety and health for Sony Electronics Inc. in San Diego.
Sony started making TV speaker boxes with 100 percent recycled resin on one TV line made in the San Diego/Tijuana region in 1999, and now uses it on all TV sets manufactured there, Smith said.
The material comes from recycled agricultural trays, coat hangers and electrical wire spools.
Both companies said that while the recycled resin performs as well or better than virgin, it still must be cheaper to make headway with product designers who want to save money first, and are reluctant to take a chance on recycled material.
``If we could just do it on the virtue of it, that would be terrific, but price is always a consideration,'' said Joseph Mackey, recycling development engineer for inkjet supplies at HP.