HP’s “Closed Loop” plastic recycling program

HPs collaboration with a small but powerful Canadian plastics recycler has resulted in a process that not only reduces waste to landfill but also reduces the footprint of an HP product family that is sold globally.

Their story is below…

By executing HP’s design for the environment program which has been in place formally since 1992 and fully leveraging the HP Planet Partners return & recycling program, (created in 1991 and now available in over 55 countries and territories) HP has designed  ink cartridges to be

1) easily taken back & recycled and

2) pioneered a “closed loop” recycling process .

This has enabled HP to lower the footprint of the plastics used in print cartridges by up to 33%. This process has already produced over 1.5 billion cartridges containing this recycled plastic through 2012, and used 30 million Kgs  of recycled  plastic (including  plastic from PET bottles equivalent to 1.6 billion bottles) .

This technically complex project took over 5 years to bring to full scale production and involved extensive collaboration between the Laverne Group, HP engineers and production staff. It is exemplary in demonstrating the many benefits of collaboration and how persistence helps overcome the sometimes seemingly insurmountable technical, operational and even human factors that could have caused this project to fail many times. Some of the benefits include:

  • the rapid growth in the business of the Lavergne group including opening a new facility in Vietnam
  • development of a cartridge disassembly machine that improved the recovery of the PET plastic by 50 %
  • leveraging Life Cycle Assessment  to not only demonstrate the environmental benefits of the project but also to drive further process improvements and footprint reductions and the knowledge of how to apply to other plastics streams/processes to broaden the already impressive impact of this project
  • Use of a significant quantity of a waste plastic (PET drinking water/soda bottles) that may have otherwise gone to landfill or at least a down cycled application
  • Overcoming the logistics of a “reverse” supply chain
  • An interesting conundrum with HP’s audit teams – is this an upstream supply chain vendor or a downstream recycling vendor?!- Which team gets to audit our supplier the Lavergne group?

Looking forward, the learnings from this project are now being applied to a new plastics stream. Leveraging the technical capabilities and momentum of the PET project HP and the Lavergne group have sourced a clean stream of recycled polypropylene (rPP) and are just embarking on  adding recycled PP into a new family of cartridges. Not content to rest on our laurels we are also investigating adding recycled plastics into our hardware products as well.

“I am proud to have spearheaded and wrestled with this project for HP. It is exciting to see the hurdles we have overcome and the exciting opportunities ahead.”

Dean Miller- senior engineer Hp