You’ve probably heard by now that ‘print is dead’, but you wouldn’t know it by the number of ink cartridges HP pumps out of its manufacturing facilities every day. While pumping out a ton of plastic every day isn’t necessarily an environmentally-friendly thing to do as a business, HP is making great strides to ensure its manufacturing processes are more sustainable.
I recently had the opportunity to visit HP’s manufacturing facility, nicknamed DIMO (Dublin Ink Manufacturing Operations) and saw first-hand the sustainability initiatives that are being put in place. During the visit, HP made the announcement that their recycling initiatives had hit a new milestone: more than 75% of their ink cartridges now contain recycled plastic. This isn’t too bad for a company whose recycling programs only began incorporating recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) in 2005, and whose last benchmark in recycled material quantity was 50% in 2013.
It was the efforts of the past year and the development of a comprehensive polypropylene recycling program that allowed HP to greatly improve their recycling metrics.
But where does all the plastic come from? If you weren’t already aware, HP has an international recycling program (Planet Partner) that works to put their used ink cartridges back into circulation, in some form or another. In an ideal world, the returned plastic would be enough to keep their manufacturing facilities running 24/7. Unfortunately, that plastic alone is not enough to sustain the production of new cartridges.
So where does the new plastic come from? Stranger places than you’d suspect.
Anyone who has ever shopped at a traditional retail store has pulled a t-shirt off of a plastic hanger. But have you ever thought about what happens to those hangers once the garment has been pulled off? The answer is, for the most part, thrown in a box somewhere and maybe ending up in a landfill.
Now, HP is sourcing these used and/or damaged plastic clothing hangers as a viable source of polypropylene to use in the manufacturing process of certain lines of their ink cartridges.
Currently, HP processes 1.5 tons of recycled plastic every day. That’s 1.5 tons of plastic that don’t end up in a landfill. But even then, a lot of people ask, is the cost of using recycled materials really more environmentally friendly than using new materials?
The answer, according to HP, is yes. Even when including the environmental impact of transportation, using recycled materials rather than new materials has a 33% smaller carbon footprint than new materials would.
Given that HP is a public company, one of the most surprising facts of all is that the cost of using recycled materials doesn’t yet cover the cost of their recycling infrastructure. HP is simply doing what they’re doing because their corporate vision has a strong focus on sustainability.
HP’s CEO, Meg Whitman, said herself:
“business as usual is not an option”
HP is practicing that every day with their sustainability initiatives, and setting an example to the rest of the manufacturing community as how things should be done.
Be sure to do your part and return your ink cartridges for recycling when they are used up. If you’re unsure of where to return your cartridges, visit HP’s website for details on where products can be recycled in 70 countries.