Re|Focus Summit Highlights Dell’s Initiative to Curb Ocean Plastic Waste

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More than 8 million tons of plastics enter the ocean each year, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF). On the current track, there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050. Corporations are stepping up to the plate to tackle the ocean plastic crisis, and Dell Technologies is working to create the world’s first commercial-scale global ocean plastic supply chain. During today’s opening keynote of the 2018 Re|focus Sustainability & Recycling Summit, Oliver Campbell, director of worldwide procurement & packaging with Dell, will detail how business can be a force for tackling our toughest environmental challenges.

Campbell said that the company started on this journey when Dell’s first social good advocate, Entourage actor and founder of Lonely Whale Adrian Grenier, brought to the company’s attention the challenges our oceans face today such as the plastic pollution problem.

“We considered if we could really tackle the problem and we did our homework,” Campbell says. “We engaged with the best experts on the planet to have the business cases validated and we found that yes, there can be a commercial supply chain for it.”

Dell is well-familiar with incorporating recycled material in its products. Since 2008, the company has included post-consumer recycled plastics in its desktops. Still, creating a commercial-scale ocean plastics supply chain is a huge task. Through evaluation of materials and numerous molding trials, Dell eventually found the right formula and launched its first ocean-bound plastic packaging pilot in 2017 using them as part of a new packaging system for the XPS 13 2-In-1 laptop globally.

The ocean plastics supply chain process is made of multiple stages: Dell’s partners capture ocean plastics at the source in waterways, shorelines and beaches before it reaches the ocean. It then processes and refines the used plastics, mixes the ocean plastic (25 percent) with other recycled HDPE plastics (the remaining 75 percent) from sources like bottles and food storage containers. Finally, it molds the resulting recycled plastic flake into new packaging trays and ships the trays for final packaging and customer delivery.

“I really want to stress that this is not a novelty or a vanity type project,” Campbell says. “We took a cold business eye to it about how to solve multiple problems—how to use ocean plastic, intercepting plastic before it goes into the oceans and how to make it economically feasible. We believe we’ve done that.”

To expand on the ocean plastic project, Dell and Lonely Whale have formed a collaborative and open-source initiative called NextWave, with General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Interface, Van de Sant, Humanscale, Bureo and Herman Miller. NextWave convenes leading technology and consumer-focused companies to develop a commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics supply chain. Additional supporting members of the group include UN Environment, 5Gyres Institute, Zoological Society of London and New Materials Institute.

“We think it’s essential that we start to act now on this challenge,” Campbell says. “What I want to share with the audience is that we believe through proper application and with innovation and supply chain excellence, we can find solutions to these daunting problems. Many people believe that sustainability costs more and we are here to say that if it’s done correctly, it costs less and can also be a brand advantage. This is something customers love and a big win for planet.”

The Re|Focus Summit begins at 1:30 p.m. and is located at the OCCC South, Level 3, S330. It is co-located with the Agricultural Plastics Recycling Conference and the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) Annual Conference. 


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