This laptop is made from plastics that died in the ocean. More than most laptops can say. Photo: Dell

This laptop will be packaged and shipped using plastics that died in the ocean. More than most laptops can say. Photo: Dell

The Inertia

Computer giant Dell has set a goal to make all of their packaging 100 percent sustainable by the year 2020, and they’ve recently taken a big step toward that goal by implementing a pilot program that turns ocean plastic into packaging material. Dell developed a new supply chain that cleans up plastic from the beaches of Haiti and uses these materials to form 25 percent of their new packaging trays. That means that people opening their new Dell laptop (the XPS 13 2-In-1 model) will find it sitting on a tray that is 100 percent recycled plastic, 25 percent of which came from the ocean.

It’s all part of Dell’s Legacy of Good program, one that focuses on delivering their products in a circular way – where waste is turned into material input. Dell began working with recycled materials more than a decade ago, and they appear to be more and more fixated on sustainability as time goes on. “Ocean plastics are the perfect example of how a resource can go from linear to circular,” the Dell website declares.

The plastic tray program begins with the collection of plastic from beaches, which is done by volunteer groups, recycling organizations, and entrepreneurial pickers. Waste processors then accumulate the products and sort them accordingly before the plastics are processed and refined. Dell ensures that this process results in a clean supply of material to be reused. The company then combines the refined ocean plastics with other recycled plastics to create a mixture to be used for the creation of the packaging trays. This material is classified as a #2 plastic, which can be easily recycled in many places.

Dell seems particularly focused on ocean plastics, and they’ve teamed with The Lonely Whale Foundation in an effort to scale their conservation efforts. They are also encouraging other large businesses to follow suit, admitting that they’re simply a drop in the proverbial ocean despite their considerable size.


“When Dell uses plastics from the beach, shorelines, waterways and coastal areas, we bring them back into the economy and stop them from breaking down and becoming part of a bigger problem,” their site says. “It gives us an affordable resource, creates jobs for the recyclers, provides a template for others to follow and helps put a dent in the vast problem of plastics entering the ocean.”

I can’t help but feel a little warm and fuzzy about a company of this size making the effort to become more responsible in their practices. It’s easy to think about big business and express a jaded perspective about how all anyone cares about is money. Initiatives like Dell’s help to remind us that it’s not always the case and there are reasons to have hope regarding the health of our planet.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Dell laptops would be made with ocean plastic. However, it is the packaging of Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop that will be made from recycled ocean plastics, not the laptop itself.

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