Through its Design for Sustainability program, HP is finding ways to increase the amount and types of recycled materials in its products. Images: HP Inc.

Technology company HP Inc., Palo Alto, California, has a product and service portfolio that includes personal computer systems, printers and 3D printing solutions. Increasingly, the company’s products are manufactured using recycled-content plastics.

Part of a bigger strategy

The company says sustainability is ingrained throughout its value chain and, according to Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) criteria, it has the world’s most sustainable PC portfolio to prove it.

Administered by the Green Electronics Council, based in Portland, Oregon, the EPEAT program provides independent verification of a manufacturer’s products based on sustainability criteria, including product energy efficiency, recycled materials usage, product longevity, design for product end of life and product packaging.

HP has 111 Gold and 268 Silver EPEAT-registered products in more than 19 countries as of June.

As part of its Design for Sustainability program, HP says it is finding ways to increase the amount and types of recycled materials in its products. The company has set what it describes as an industry-leading goal to increase the use of recycled plastic across its PCs and print products by the middle of this decade. But this goal is only one component of the company’s overall plastics strategy, which Ellen Jackowski, global head of sustainability strategy and innovation at HP, says has four additional pillars:

  • reduce single-use plastic packaging where possible, with the goal of eliminating 75 percent;
  • choose sustainable options, such as using molded pulp packaging rather than plastic foam;
  • source recycled plastic by expanding the supply chain for ocean-bound plastic where it has the greatest impact; and
  • help customers recycle by growing HP’s Planet Partners program and encourage customers to recycle.

“Part of enabling reuse and recycling is to have source material for all of our new products,” she says of the company’s last pillar.

HP’s interest in using recycled plastics is based on its desire to transition to a circular economy, Jackowski says. “That has been a central pillar.”

She continues, “When we look at our carbon footprint, about half of it comes from the supply chain.” This includes material extraction and transportation.

Recycled plastics can present some challenges around functionality, performance and appearance; however, the company has asked its designers and engineers to increase HP’s use of this material to 30 percent by 2025, Jackowski says. In 2018, the company used 7 percent postconsumer recycled-content plastic in its computers and print products. HP used more than 21,250 tons of recycled plastics that year.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) accounts for most of the plastic HP uses, though it does use some polyethylene terephthalate (PET), as well.

“We are working with all sorts of return and recycling programs to increase the amount of ABS available for recycling,” Jackowski says, mentioning free collection sites at Best Buy stores as an example. These programs are not specific to HP-branded products, she says. “It gives us access to as much recycled plastic as possible.”

Devices collected through these programs are processed at a number of electronics recycling companies, including the Sims Lifecycle Services location outside of Nashville, Tennessee, she says.

HP’s ZBook Studio is made with ocean-bound PET recovered and recycled in Haiti. Image: HP Inc.

An island of opportunity

The company’s recycled plastic sourcing strategy includes using ocean-bound plastics, having helped to establish a recycling plant in Haiti that processes this material.

HP defines ocean-bound plastics as those that are collected from within roughly 30 miles of the ocean in nations without proper waste management services, Jackowski says.

All the ocean-bound plastic that HP incorporates into its products is PET. The company says its HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise laptop is the world’s first Chromebook made with ocean-bound plastic. The device also is made from 75 percent recycled aluminum and features a keyboard made from 50 percent recycled plastics. This Chromebook joins a series of HP products made with ocean-bound plastic recovered in Haiti, including the ZBook Studio, the Elite Dragonfly and the HP EliteDisplay E273D, the company says.

Jackowski refers to HP’s work in Haiti as a “test opportunity” that proves the company can produce the quality print cartridges and devices it’s known for while also supporting environmental and social change in a developing area of the world.

HP’s Haitian initiative began in 2016 in partnership with the First Mile Coalition and the company’s supplier partners. The work has resulted in an ocean-bound plastics supply chain that has recycled more than 60 million bottles as of June, providing income opportunities to more than 1,100 Haitians and education opportunities to 150 children, Jackowski says. The PET recycled through this initiative is now used to manufacture HP hardware products in addition to the company’s print cartridges.

In April 2019, the company announced that it would invest $2 million in a washing line in Haiti to produce cleaner, higher quality recycled PET locally for use in HP products. Partners on the project include Quebec-based plastics recycler Lavergne Inc., which takes the flakes produced in Haiti and incorporates additives to produce pellets at its North American operations, and Environmental Cleaning Solutions S.A., which operates a material recovery facility in Haiti. These companies have partnered with HP in Haiti since 2016.

When the washing line is up and running, Jackowski says it will double the volume of recycled plastics the Haitian plant is able to produce.

She adds that HP is focused on scaling up operations in Haiti, but the company also is doing work in Indonesia to address ocean-bound plastics.

HP’s use of ocean-bound plastics has been validated by UL. (See sidebar above.)

“Partnering with a trusted third-party standards body was really important to us,” she says. “It takes our learnings and opens them up to others within the industry and creates a common language around this kind of work.”

Designing for end of life

In addition to encouraging consumers to recycle HP products and providing them free access to these services, Jackowski says the company also designs its products with repair and recyclability in mind.

“A good example is our ink cartridges,” she says, which are designed for ease of disassembly using an automated process.

The company’s personal computer line also offers examples of designs that make recycling and repair easier, Jackowski says. She notes that iFixit, a wiki-based site that offers repair guides and resources for PCs and other devices, consistently gives the company’s laptops high marks for ease of repairability.

“We want to design for product longevity, maintenance and reuse and recycling,” Jackowski says.

The author is editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted via email at dtoto@gie.net.