Ocean Plastic Pollution threatens our ecosystems – but what if there was a way to re-use it?

 

With their new packaging, Dell hopes to keep 16 000 tones of plastic out of the ocean this year – and this is just the beginning.

World-famous computer company, Dell Inc., makes and sells various technology products, from laptops to hard drives to servers. Each of those products is packaged and shipped to retailers and consumers across the globe – and the packaging needs to be sufficient to protect gadgets and gizmos that can cost thousands of dollars each. That’s a lot of packaging, and potentially a lot of pollution and waste.

This not a unique problem; in fact, 8 million metric tones of plastic enter the ocean every day. Those who eat an average amount of seafood will ingest about 11 000 plastic particles per year, according to a study done by Dr Colin Janssen, researcher at Ghent University in Belgium. These frightening facts paired with the desire to make their supply chain 100% sustainable by 2020 have pushed Dell to start their path down the use of ocean plastics, and at first it wasn’t easy.

Dell is not new to the world of sustainable packaging. They have innovated ways to use sustainably sourced bamboo, mushrooms and wheat straw to make packagingin various Dell manufacturers around the world.  Dell has been greatly successful with their initiatives and by 2015, 66% of their shipments have used packaging that is 100% sustainably sourced.

However, discovering a new material to use is one thing, and implementing it is another.

“With sustainable packaging... when it’s done right - it’s good for the planet, it’s good for the people, [and] it’s good for business”

Oliver Campbell, Director of Procurement & Packaging Innovation at Dell, is passionate about sustainable projects and packaging.

“We want solutions that are really sustainable, and part of that means is that it also has to be economically viable” he says.“When one looks at our long line of packaging breakthroughs and initiatives, from bamboo to wheat straw… we’ve always had the guidelines that we want price points that are equal, and are preferable at lower cost.”

Dell is eager to share their process with other companies and give them advice on how to get started, especially since switching is not always easy.

“When we started looking at ocean plastics about two years ago,” says Campbell,“we didn’t really know how to do it, certainly at a cost effective scale.”

Even before the idea came to fruition, it was difficult for Campbell to convince his boss that ocean plastic packaging would be worth it. There was definitely risk and uncertainty associated with the idea, since it wasn’t something that had been done before on a grand scale. It wasn’t until months later that the idea had taken root.

Companies considering sustainable packaging ideas may also hit similar obstacles. Campbell adds that it’s apart of nature to avoid risk, especially since “if it’s working and nobody’s complaining, why should I change?”. At the end of the day, it takes courage to reflect on the actions of ones company and to begin the process of switching to more sustainable options.

What is great about this initiative is that younger generations love it. Knowing that, for example, your parent’s work for a company that is targeting environmental issues can be a great confidence boost. On top of that, matching the values of younger generations with certain products will certainly help promote the issue.

The sustainable packaging also has an effect on the workers. “As we bring sustainability in supply chains, what we’re doing is really creating eco- aware supply chains,” says Campbell.

The packing will be used with their new laptop, the XPS 13 2-in-1.

By the end of next year, Dell is hoping to scale up the project and will attempt to meet their goal of keeping 200 000 tones of plastic from the ocean. Will they succeed? Things are looking positive.

“With sustainable packaging,” says Campbell, “when it’s done right - it’s good for the planet, it’s good for the people, [and] it’s good for business”

Veronika Szostak is a student at the University of Waterloo in the Environment and Resource Studies program. She is a volunteer at A/J and aspires to become a journalist, artist, and environmentalist.

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