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In its effort to make product packaging more convenient for customers and less impactful on the planet, Dell Inc. has eliminated the use of more than 18.2 million pounds of packaging material since 2008. For perspective, that’s approximately the same weight as 226 fully loaded 18-wheelers or almost 4,184 small pickups.
The reductions, reported August 23 in Dell’s 2009 Corporate Responsibility report, result from the company’s “three Cs” packaging strategy, which focuses on the cube (packaging volume); content (what it’s made of) and curbside recyclability of its packaging materials.
Dell revealed it has made significant progress toward its packaging content and curbside recyclability targets. Since 2008, the company has increased the amount of recycled content in its packaging to approximately 32 percent. Dell is now 94 percent of the way to achieving its stated goal of increasing recycled content in packaging to 35 percent by 2010, a 40 percent increase over 2008 levels. And more than half (57 percent) of Dell’s packaging materials can now be conveniently recycled by customers using their local curbside pick-up programs. The company is aiming for that number to be 75 percent by the end of 2012.
The Road to Better Packaging
In December 2008, Dell announced a plan to revolutionize computer packaging. To achieve this goal, the company is implementing a strategy based on the three Cs:
Cube: Reducing the size of product packaging has required changes ranging from the simple (putting fewer items – disks, catalogs, etc. – in the box, allowing for smaller packaging and a more straight-forward “out-of-box” experience for customers) to using engineering tools to run various “what if” scenarios. With these tools, Dell has optimized its Inspiron 15 laptop packaging so that 63 laptops fit on each shipping pallet, up from 54. More laptops on each pallet means more laptops fit into each vehicle, which can result in fewer shipping vehicles and less shipping-related environmental impact.
Content: Dell has significantly increased the amount of recycled content that goes into its packaging. For heavier products that require sturdy support, the company has increased its use of recycled foam versus using virgin product. Dell has also increased its use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics from items such as milk jugs and detergent bottles. The company has integrated the equivalent of more than 9.5 million half-gallon milk jugs into its packaging. That’s enough to stretch from Florida to Maine – more than 1,500 miles.
In November 2009, Dell was the first technology company to integrate bamboo into its packaging portfolio. Bamboo is a strong, renewable and compostable material that serves as a great alternative to the molded paper pulp, foams and corrugated cardboard often used in packaging. Starting with its Inspiron Mini 10 and 10v netbooks, the company has since extended the use of bamboo packaging to include its new 5-inch hybrid device, Streak, and a number of its Inspiron laptops. Watch this video to learn more about Dell’s bamboo packaging.
Curbside: Dell aims to make “being green” easy and cost-effective for its customers. Using product packaging that is curbside recyclable is part of that commitment. To reach its goal, Dell increasingly selects recyclable materials for its packaging, including PCR plastics and molded paper pulp.
While highly renewable and compostable, bamboo packaging isn’t yet accepted by many municipal packaging programs today. Dell is teaming with Georgia Pacific, Unisource Global Services and Environmental Packaging International in an effort to certify its bamboo packaging for recycling.
“Establishing these packaging goals has transformed my team from great packaging engineers to inspired environmental champions,” said Oliver Campbell, Dell’s senior manager of Global Packaging. “The progress we’ve made has kept a lot of materials out of landfills, made responsible packaging disposal easier for customers and is making Dell a more environmentally responsible company.”