Collaborating on the issue of ocean plastics

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Addressing the issue of ocean plastics requires collaboration.

August 3, 2018

Dell Inc., headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, says it has committed to keeping plastics in the economy and out of the ocean, creating what it calls the first commercial global ocean-bound plastics supply chain, NextWave. In the Opening Plenary session at the Re|focus Sustainability & Recycling Summit, the company’s Oliver Campbell, director of worldwide procurement and packaging, shared the steps Dell has taken to process ocean-bound plastics, or plastics collected from beaches, waterways and coastal areas, for use in new packaging for the XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop. Re|focus was co-located with NPE2018: The Plastics Show in Orlando, Florida, in early May.

“Dell is thinking circularly, not linearly,” Campbell said, adding that sustainable materials are the foundation of the company’s approach. “Recycled plastics factor largely into our manufacturing.”

In 2017, Dell used 16,000 pounds of ocean-bound plastics in its packaging. Unfortunately, that is just a fraction of the estimated 8.8 million tons of plastics that enter oceans annually, according to Campbell, who added that 60 percent of this material originates in South Asia. The amount of plastics that enter the ocean is expected to increase to 19 million tons by 2025, he said.

Dell and Lonely Whale formed the collaborative and open-source initiative called NextWave, convening General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Interface, Van de Sant, Humanscale, Bureo and Herman Miller, to address the scalability issue associated with recycling ocean-bound plastics. NextWave assembled these leading technology and consumer-focused companies to develop the first commercial ocean-bound plastics supply chain. Additional supporting members of the group include UN (United Nations) Environment, 5Gyres Institute, the Zoological Society of London and the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia.

To create a sustainable solution for ocean-bound plastics, Campbell said, the cost point must be equal to or less than virgin resin options for Dell. And that’s what the company has been able to achieve through this initiative.

Dell is expanding its use of ocean-bound plastics to the packaging for the rest of the company’s XPS line this year. In 2019, Campbell said Dell plans further expansions.

The company’s packaging contains 25 percent recycled ocean-bound plastics. Campbell said Dell chose this amount because it wanted to do better than the 10 percent most other companies using ocean plastics were incorporating but give the company room to grow, as well.

Members of the NextWave working group say they are committed to creating real change, to testing the integration of ocean-bound materials into products and to plastics source reduction across their operations and supply chain.

Other companies interested in keeping plastics in the economy and out of the world’s oceans can apply to NextWave at Whether you’re a brand owner, a packaging manufacturer or a government official, we all have a role to play in reducing ocean plastics. What will your contribution be?