• 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.


    • Giving old products new life

      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.

    • How we use closed-loop plastics

      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!


    • Other closed-loop initiatives

      Closed-loop rare earth magnets

      Our learnings from creating a closed-loop plastics supply chain have enabled us to experiment with other closed-loop opportunities. For example, we worked with hard drive manufacturer Seagate and recycling program partner Teleplan on a pilot project to feed recovered rare-earth magnets back into thousands of new hard drives.

      During early stages, we looked at various recovery methods but determined that separating the magnets, grinding them down and reforming them into new magnets would give us the greatest scalability. We also approached the project with an “open-source” philosophy – drives being manufactured with the recycled magnets may end up in competitor products, too. But the idea is to scale up magnet recovery as a whole, not just for our own benefit.

      The rare earths project remains a pilot program as we continue to look for ways to scale within our own operations, but it provides valuable learnings as we explore other opportunities.

    • Motherboards to motherlode: closed-loop gold

      Many people do not realize how many precious metals there are in technology: gold, silver, aluminum, copper, platinum and many more. With recycling rates for e-waste hovering around 20%, there is tremendous lost opportunity. What’s more, recycling metals like gold can dramatically reduce the social and environmental costs compared to sourcing from ore.

      We pioneered a closed-loop process for recycling gold from e-waste back into new motherboards in 2018. Our pilot project demonstrated how the process could work and we continue to look for ways to scale.


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      Bio-based resources

      We’ve pioneered bio-based technologies to package our products and reduce their environmental impact still further.

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      Waste as a resource

      Discover how we turn waste into raw materials for our latest products.