In its effort to make product packaging more convenient for customers and lessen its impact on the planet, Dell has eliminated the use of more than 18.2 million pounds of packaging material since 2008. For perspective, the company relates, that’s the same weight as 226 fully loaded 18-wheelers or almost 4,184 small pick-ups.
The reductions, reported in Dell’s Fiscal Year 2010 Corporate Responsibility Summary 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 says it has increased the amount of recycled content in its packaging by approximately 32%. Dell is now 94% of the way to achieving its stated goal of increasing recycled content in packaging by 40% by 2012. And, more than half (57%) of Dell’s packaging materials can now be recycled by customers using their local curbside pick-up programs. The company is aiming for that number to be 75% by the end of 2012.
“Establishing these packaging goals has transformed my team from great packaging engineers to inspired environmental champions,” says 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.”
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 straightforward “out-of-box” experience for customers) to using engineering tools to run various “what if” scenarios, Dell says.
With these tools, Dell says it 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, resulting in fewer shipping vehicles and less shipping-related environmental impact.
Dell notes that it 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 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—Dell says.
In November 2009, Dell was the first 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-in. hybrid device, Streak, and a number of its Inspiron laptops.
Dell aims to make “being green” easy and cost-effective for its customers. Ensuring its product packaging is curbside-recyclable is part of that commitment. To reach its goal, Dell says that it 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 Solutions, and Environmental Packaging International in an effort to certify its bamboo packaging for recycling.