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How Dell Will Divert 820,000 Pounds of Carbon Fiber from Landfills


Illustration of Dell approach to circular economy

Dell garnered some news headlines earlier this week when we announced that, as part of our circular economy initiatives, we would be increasing the amount of recycled materials we use to make our hardware. Specifically, we will be the first in our industry to use recycled carbon fiber.

Which got me to wondering…just what is carbon fiber and where is it used? An online search told me the basics – that it’s “a material consisting of thin, strong crystalline filaments of carbon, used as a strengthening material, especially in resins and ceramics.”

But I also noticed that there was talk about the potential benefits it could bring to the automotive industry. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the next generation of carbon-fiber composites could reduce passenger car weight by 50 percent and improve fuel efficiency by about 35 percent. But, one hurdle to furthering its use is waste disposal or recycling.

That means our work partnering with SABIC to recycle excess carbon fiber, could have an even greater impact than estimated – Dell alone estimates our 2015 usage will prevent 820,000 pounds of carbon fiber from ending up in landfills!

“We are going to take what other industries call waste scrap, excess carbon fiber material and reprocess it and recycle it and use it in our products,” Jeff Clarke, our vice chairman of operations and president of client solutions, told the audience at Fortune Brainstorm E conference.

Dell vice chairman of operations and president of client solutions Jeff Clarke holds a laptop made of recycled carbon fiber at the Fortune Brainstorm E 2015 conference.

The recycled carbon fiber materials we will be using have an approximately 11 percent smaller carbon footprint than virgin carbon fiber. So our customers can feel good about the potential impact their purchases will have on the environment.

Leaving a positive, measurable and lasting contribution to our planet and our society is not something new to Dell. It’s why we created our Legacy of Good plan. It’s why we collaborate with like-minded businesses and industries to advance the circular economy, and recently joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 program.

It’s why we’ve already incorporated into our products more than 21 million pounds of recycled plastics from sources including water bottles and CD cases. And, it’s why our takeback programs in 78 countries have recovered 1.4 billion pounds of electronics – our own, as well as those of other manufacturers.

That’s the sort of work that grabbed a few more headlines this week when the Green Electronics Council honored us with its “2015 Catalyst Award” for leadership in closed-loop recycled plastics manufacturing. Dell’s closed-loop recycled plastics supply chain was certified by UL Environment as the first -and it continues to be the only one in the industry.

“The Catalyst Awards recognize practical projects whose impact can inspire further innovation in the electronics space,” said Kent Snyder, Green Electronics Council Chairman of the Board. “Dell has long been an environmental leader, and their progress to advance the circular economy in electronics is impressive.”

I’ll admit that I am biased, but I have to agree it’s pretty impressive to me, as well. I can feel good about working for, and purchasing from, a company that not only strives to reduce waste and reliance on natural resources, but consistently follows through with impressive results.

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