Dell to Build New PCs From Recycled Plastic

The company also will use sustainable packaging as part of the company's 2020 Legacy of Good effort, announced last fall.

green IT and hardware

Dell is broadening its sustainability efforts with new initiatives that include building some PCs with recycled plastics.

Dell officials announced the moves May 21, saying they are part of the tech vendor's larger 2020 Legacy of Good plan, which outlines almost two-dozen sustainability and social goals that the company hopes to reach by the end of the decade.

The 21-goal strategy touches on three "action areas"—communities, people and environment—with objectives for each area. After company executives announced the initiative in October 2013, much of the initial attention went to Dell's plans to have at least half its employees working remotely, at least part of the time, by 2020—a move they said will reduce the company's costs and benefit the environment.

The newest moves fit firmly in the "environment" action area. Along with building some systems from recycled plastic, Dell also is adopting innovative carbon-negative packaging that will make some of what comes in a box containing a new system environmentally-friendly.

"By designing products with a precautionary approach to materials and a focus on energy efficiency, we make it easier for our customers to be green," Scott O'Connell, director of environmental affairs for Dell, said in a post on the company blog. "By reusing plastics already in circulation, Dell is cutting down on e-waste, reducing carbon emissions and helping drive a circular economy for IT."

Dell isn't the only tech vendor with recycling and other sustainable plans in place. Other system makers such as Hewlett-Packard also have touted their efforts, and Dell officials said they also have had such initiatives in place for years. The 2020 Legacy of Good strategy came out just after the tech giant went private, and laid out some specific goals that needed to be reached. For example, the company wants to be using 50 million pounds of post-consumer recycled-content plastics and similar sustainable materials in its products, O'Connell said.

"We recognize the challenges with plastics recycling due to various resin types, additives, plasticizer, color and pigments," he wrote. "Industry estimates indicate that approximately 200 million tons of plastics are produced each year; however, only less than 10 [percent] of these plastics are recycled today."

Dell is partnering with Wistron GreenTech, an original design manufacturer (ODM), in developing the closed-loop plastics supply chain initiative. Dell will use UL-Environment certified plastics for some systems, starting with its OptiPlex 3030 all-in-one (AIO) desktop, which will launch in June. Through the program, Dell officials estimate they will reduce waste, save resources and cut carbon emissions by 11 percent when compared with using new plastics.

Dell offers free recycling of consumer products in 78 countries.

The vendor also is partnering with Newlight Technologies, which has developed a plastic called AirCarbon that is made from air and greenhouse gases that normally would dissipate and become part of the air. Newlight's process uses more carbon than it produces, making it a carbon-neutral technology. Dell will start using the new packaging in the fall, starting with the sleeves around new Latitude notebooks.

The tech giant currently is piloting AirCarbon packaging in the United States, with plans to expand it worldwide to eventually use it not only in packaging but also products. Dell in the past had used such materials as bamboo and wheat straw, helping cut 20 million pounds of traditional packaging and saving $18 million. The AirCarbon product also is less expensive to make than oil-based plastic packaging, Dell officials said.

Another goal in Dell's overall plan is to be using 100 percent sustainable packaging by 2020.

In a letter to customers posted on the company's site when the Legacy of Good plan was announced, CEO Michael Dell said he wants his company to generate 10 times the benefit through its technology than it takes to make and use it, which he called the 10X20 goal.

"It's about capturing the innovative ways our customers are using Dell technology to do good in the world," Michael Dell wrote. "That could mean dramatically reducing carbon emissions with our cloud solutions, or predicting and guarding against severe weather patterns with our high-performance computing capabilities, or delivering solar-powered classrooms to remote regions of the world with our energy-efficient virtual desktops."