Dell Pledges Waste-Free Packaging by 2020

Wheat Straw

by | Jun 6, 2013

Wheat StrawDell announced sustainable packaging initiatives including goals for a waste-free packaging stream by 2020 and a new wheat straw material (pictured) that turns agricultural waste into boxes.

The company says it will achieve its waste-free packaging goals by:

  • Ensuring that 100 percent of Dell packaging is sourced from sustainable materials, including recycled and rapidly renewable content, or material that was formerly part of the waste stream.
  • Ensuring that 100 percent of Dell packaging is either recyclable or compostable at the end of its life.

Currently, more than half of Dell’s packaging meets both these criteria, the company says.

In launching its packaging initiatives, the company also announced it will begin using a sustainable material — wheat straw — in many of its cardboard boxes for notebooks originating in China. Many Chinese farmers currently treat this byproduct of wheat harvesting as waste and burn it for disposal, contributing to air pollution and associated health issues.

Beginning in August, Dell will incorporate the straw in its boxes, starting with 15 percent by weight and ramping up as operations scale. The remainder of the box will primarily come from recycled content fiber. The boxes will look and perform like regular cardboard, and they will be recyclable at the end of their life.

Dell estimates initially it will use 200 tons of wheat straw per year, sourced from farmers in the Jiangsu Province. This move could alleviate 180 tons of CO2 emissions annually, Dell says. During pulping, the wheat straw will go through an enzymatic process — modeled after the way cows digest grass — that uses 40 percent less energy and almost 90 percent less water than traditional chemical pulping.

Last year, Dell achieved the goals set out in its 3Cs (cube, content, curb) packaging strategy by reducing the size of packaging more than 12 percent, increasing the amount of recycled and renewable content in packaging up to 40 percent, and ensuring that up to 75 percent of packaging is recyclable at curbside. This work eliminated more than 20 million pounds of packaging material and saved $18 million since 2008, the company says.

Dell was the first technology company to use bamboo cushions to replace foam in shipping lightweight products such as notebooks. The company also is using mushrooms as an organic alternative to foam for heavier products such as servers. Both materials are either recyclable or compostable.

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