Dell Inc. expects to recycle 16,000 pounds of ocean-bound plastics litter to create new packaging this year and is looking for ways to use even more of the material.
The company is highlighting the effort as a way to reduce plastic marine debris. Littered high density polyethylene is collected in Haiti before it can reach the ocean, reprocessed and then mixed with other post-consumer HDPE.
The Round Rock, Texas-based company is using the material to make packaging trays for the XPS 13 2-in-1 computer.
“We're using it as a tray to start with, in the primary packaging. That's where the application is and we have a crawl, walk, run philosophy. So we're actively examining other applications of ocean plastic,” said Oliver Campbell, director of procurement and packaging innovation at Dell.
“We're using an HDPE for this application, but it really allows us to learn about the collection, look at the supply chain, the social applications, etc. We view this really more as the start of a much larger application,” he said.
Because of the degradation of plastic subjected to the elements, the company is using 25 percent ocean-bound plastic along with 75 percent other post-consumer plastic to create the 72-gram trays.
Most plastics that end up in oceans come from land-based sources that are then washed into the water or dumped directly. So Dell's program aims to collect that litter before it can reach the water and become more difficult to capture.
“Technically, it's land-sourced ocean plastic. It certainly is ocean bound. It makes much more sense to intercept it and prevent it before it actually reaches the ocean,” Campbell said.
Haiti was selected for the initial collection efforts because of its lack of waste and recycling infrastructure, which results in plastics easily becoming litter, he explained.
The company had a practical consideration in selecting 25 percent ocean-plastic content for this initial project.
“The reason for that was we wanted to be certain of our source of supply, now much we could actually source,” Campbell said.
“We felt comfortable with this. We want it to be a success. It wasn't exactly clear to us what supply chain hurdles we might encounter, whether it be contamination or continuity of supply so this amount for us basically worked out well,” he said.
Dell's use of ocean-bound plastics continues the company's work in using sustainable and recycled materials in its products. The company already has reached a 2020 goal of using 50 million pounds of recycled plastics in Dell products, the company said.
The 16,000 pounds of ocean plastics will be used in a total of 300,000 trays that present the computer and hold literature.
“We've done a tremendous amount of work around the circular economy, recycling plastics in particular,” Campbell said.
Along with employing with local collection efforts in Haiti, Dell is working with HDPE recycler Envision Plastics LLC of Reidsville, N.C., to bring the trays to market, Campbell said. “The plastic is collected out of basically the streets, rivers or off the beach,” he said. “What we're trying to do here is intercept that flow and create a market for that ocean-bound plastic.”
Dell will begin using the trays on April 30.