In green packaging, little things mean a lot

Going through the Dell corporate sustainability report published earlier this week in a bit more detail and wanted to report more specifically on the results of the company's efforts to reduce packaging for certain products. You might recall that Dell has a threefold focus when it comes to packaging:Reducing the sizeUsing materials that are more environmentally sensitiveEnsuring that packaging is easy to recycle for customersAccording to the report this week, the company has cut more than 18.

Going through the Dell corporate sustainability report published earlier this week in a bit more detail and wanted to report more specifically on the results of the company's efforts to reduce packaging for certain products. You might recall that Dell has a threefold focus when it comes to packaging:

  1. Reducing the size
  2. Using materials that are more environmentally sensitive
  3. Ensuring that packaging is easy to recycle for customers

According to the report this week, the company has cut more than 18.2 million pounds of packaging materials out of its products since 2008. Because I love the fun comparative translations that companies offer: that's about the same as 226 18-wheeler trucks. Fully loaded.

Even the smallest changes to a box design can have a huge impact, according to Oliver Campbell, Dell senior manager of Global Packaging.

So, for example, when Dell eliminated some printed promo materials from its Inspiron boxes, its was able to fit 17 percent more notebooks per shipping pallet (about 9 more total). That means fewer containers needed per shipment and fewer airplanes, trucks or ships to lug the stuff around, Campbell says.

Campbell reports that about 35 percent of the content in certain packaging is now derived from recycled materials, most notably post-consumer recycled plastics. If you want to do the math, so far Dell has used the equivalent of about 9.5 million used half-gallon milk jugs.

The company has also extended the use of compostable bamboo materials in its packaging from its Inspiron Mini 10 and 10v netbooks to the new five-inch Streak hybrid product and some of the Inspiron laptop line. The biggest challenge with bamboo, Campbell admits, is educating waste management companies and communities about how to dispose of it. Dell's goal is to ensure that approximately 75 percent of its packaging materials are curbside recyclable. So far, it's at about 57 percent.

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