Today is Global Recycling Day, a time for us all to step up our individual recycling efforts and to press our business, community and government leaders to expand their recycling infrastructure.
At Dell, we’ve seen the power of individual action firsthand. Our industry-leading recycling programs are the result of a few passionate Dell employees—starting with Michael Dell—who had a desire to make a bigger impact.
Only 20 percent of the world’s e-waste is recycled, according to the United Nations. When electronics products are improperly disposed in landfills or incinerated, this can harm the environment and human health. As an electronics producer, Dell has a responsibility to recover, reuse and recycle our products when they’ve reached the end of their useful life for our customers. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously: At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we announced that we met our 2020 goal of recovering 2 billion pounds of used electronics (using FY08 as a baseline).
“As one of the largest technology providers in the world, we have a responsibility to advance sustainability. A big part of that is applying circular principles to how we design and ensuring accessible and responsible recycling for our global customers,” said Chris Fraser, SVP and Chief Responsibility Officer, Dell Technologies. “Achieving these milestones early demonstrates our team’s enormous commitment to running a sustainable business.”
Making responsible recycling easy for customers
For over 23 years, Dell has had a history of leadership when it comes to collecting used electronics and responsibly managing the resale and recycling of used electronics. Dell has one of the largest technology recycling programs, with convenient options for customers worldwide to return their used equipment of any brand, in any condition. Making recycling easy for customers has been key to maximizing the amount of electronics we can recover.
Trust has been another factor: Customers know they can count on us to be good stewards of their end-of-life equipment. Our recycling partners sanitize all systems to securely remove and protect customers’ data. They refurbish or remanufacture equipment that still has life in it. Any units that have truly reached their end of life are broken down and responsibly recycled following our Dell Electronics Disposition Standard—one of the highest standards in the industry.
Expanding our reach through strong local partnerships
Building a global electronics collection and recycling network has not been a simple endeavor. Electronics recycling regulations vary widely across countries, regions and cities. Every time we expand our recycling programs to a new area, we collaborate with local governments to ensure we comply with their laws. And we must manage e-waste as a global issue as well: In 2009, we became the first in our industry to ban the export of nonworking electronics and e-waste to developing countries.
Strong partnerships have been key to our expansion into new markets. Our Dell Reconnect partnership with Goodwill® Industries enables customers to drop off their used electronics to more than 2,000 Goodwill locations across the U.S. At 15 years strong, this is the longest-running partnership between an IT company and a nonprofit around electronics recycling.
Scaling our programs to all types of customers
We collect customers’ used electronics through many return streams. Depending on their country, consumers can return their electronics through the mail or at service centers, trade-in online or at Dell stores, or they can drop off at a participating Goodwill location with Dell Reconnect. For our commercial customers, our Asset Resale and Recycling Services (ARR) provides on-site pickup of products when they’ve reached their end of life, plus detailed reporting of each system’s journey from collection to final disposition. We also reclaim equipment from customers at the end of their lease, as well as equipment that is returned because it is unwanted or damaged.
We reuse systems and their parts whenever possible, to keep materials circulating for as long as they have useful life. For example, in 2018, Dell EMC piloted a program to reuse non-functioning disk drives from storage products rather than scrapping and recycling them. Our partner Teleplan wipes all data and provides full reporting.
Innovating new ways to increase recycling’s social impact
Recovering large volumes of used electronics has enabled us to innovate and scale new forms of reuse. In 2014, we began closed-loop recycling, using the plastics from systems collected through Dell Reconnect and ARR to make plastics for new Dell computers. This closed-loop supply chain supports our move toward a circular economy and another Legacy of Good goal: To use 100 million pounds of recycled-content plastics and sustainable materials in our products.
Our programs also benefit the communities we serve. Through Dell Reconnect, we’ve helped thousands of people with disabilities and disadvantages learn to recycle electronics and gain other technical skills and training through Goodwill Industries. We’ve given our ARR customers’ used equipment a new life in local schools and nonprofits through our custom donation programs. And as we’ve expanded our programs into emerging markets around the globe, we’ve worked with communities to transform informal recycling networks (in which workers are often exploited and electronics incinerated) into formal industries.
Interested in supporting Global Recycling Day? Take a quick inventory of your used electronics inventory, and head to Dell.com/Recycle to start the process of giving it a new life.