Recovering materials before they exit the economy and returning them to usefulness is a key concept within the circular economy. Materials can be “closed-loop,” meaning they are reused for the same purpose again, or they can be “open-loop,” in that they are reused but not as they were used the last time around. In the transition to a circular economy, we need to employ both approaches.
When electronics come back to Dell via recycling, return, off-lease or other means, we first see if the technology can still be used – resold or donated to someone who needs it. If not, we may reuse viable parts to help repair and remanufacture other units. Whatever is left gets responsibly recycled by our partners.
How does it work?
If we cannot use a material in a closed-loop process for ourselves, we know someone else who can put it to good use. Materials like plastic, glass and metals often get sold back to the commodities markets where they are bought by other manufacturers.
For instance, we have sourced recycled-content plastics from the commodities markets for use in various systems since 2008. In 2014, we began to incorporate plastics recovered from e-waste, recycling them back in a “closed-loop” fashion for use in new parts for new computers.
We recycle millions of pounds of closed-loop plastics to make new parts for new computers and monitors each year. After materials are disassembled, the plastics are shredded, melted and then mixed with virgin plastics. The average closed-loop recycled content of the resins we use is 30-35%. Internal estimates show it takes about six months for the plastics to leave our customers’ hands, go through the process, and return as a new computer. Best of all? We are saving money and protecting our environment at the same time – it’s a perfect example of what circular design should be!