Technology can be a source of emissions, but it can also help to significantly reduce them. Using videoconferencing, for example, can avoid trips across countries or continents, while digital files remove the need for printing and postage. The use of cloud computing can also reduce the need for physical resources in every office, while the internet of things has helped to make smart buildings a reality, meaning users can be much more efficient in their use of heating and lighting.
But, for small businesses, one of the biggest impacts they can have is ensuring that any technology they buy has as little negative impact on the environment as possible, including how it is made in the first place, the energy it requires to operate, and how it is disposed of at the end of its life.
Dell Technologies has led the way in electronics recycling since the 1990s, with its takeback and recycling programmes identifying anything that can be refurbished or reused, and the remainder then sent for recycling or further processing. Recovered materials are then sold back to the commodities market.
In 2014, the company developed the industry’s first closed-loop recycling process, using recycled plastic from old electronics for new parts in computers and monitors; something that is now widespread across its product range.
Dell’s Latitude 5000 series features the world’s most advanced use of sustainable materials to date. It includes ocean-bound plastics in the design of products and accessories, the use of bio-based rubber from castor beans, and packaging that is made from 100 per cent recycled or renewable materials, and which is 100 per cent recyclable. Its Precision Workstations are made from up to 61 per cent recycled plastics and 21 per cent in mobile workstations, while OptiPlex desktops are made from up to 90 per cent recycled plastic.
This is also the case with monitors. The new UltraSharp, C Series Video Conferencing and P Series monitors are all made with 85 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic. In all, as much as 40 per cent of plastics used in more than 125 product lines now comes from closed-loop recycled plastic. Dell has also teamed up with non-profit organisation Lonely Whale and the UN to research turning ocean-bound plastics into a commodity, with the aim of further reducing the amount of plastic waste that enters our oceans.
Through its unique Concept Luna – an ambitious prototype that explores revolutionary design ideas to reduce resource use and keep even more circular materials in the economy – Dell is also pushing the boundaries of sustainable PC design. Among other developments, this has seen smaller motherboards used in PCs, reducing their carbon footprint by 50 per cent, and the number of screws used to access internal components cut from hundreds to just four.
There are other initiatives which are having an impact. Dell Technologies has worked with two of its supply chain partners – Teleplan and Reconnext – to recover magnets from redundant IT storage equipment and feed these into new hard drives. The programme recycled 5.8 tons of rare-earth magnets in the first year alone, preventing huge amounts of acidic wastewater being produced from extracting rare-earth elements from the ground.
Packaging is another area that can make a difference when it comes to buying technology. Dell’s new Latitude, Precision and XPS notebooks ship in packaging made from 100 per cent recycled or renewed materials, including the use of bioplastic, bio-based rubber, ocean-bound plastic, reclaimed carbon fibre and post-consumer recycled plastic.
On average, 90 per cent of Dell’s packaging comes from recycled or renewable materials, and products like OptiPlex desktops offer a multipack shipping option to give customers the power to reduce both the amount of packaging and transportation footprint that is required.
Computer equipment isn’t the only way in which organisations can have an impact on their carbon footprint when it comes to buying technology. Many laptop purchases, for instance, are accompanied by carrying cases, made by a textile industry that responsible for a significant proportion of carbon emissions and industrial waste, particularly through the use of dip-dyed polyester fabrics.
Dell has developed its own EcoLoop solution-dyeing process, which is an entirely different way to colour fabric. Here, colouring agents are mixed with polyester pellets before they are extruded into fibre. This creates a consistently coloured yarn, so no additional dyeing is needed. The solution creates 90 per cent less waste water, 62 per cent less CO2 emissions, and uses 29 per cent less energy.
Carrying cases also make use of an innovative process under which laminated windscreen glass from old vehicles that would otherwise have headed to landfill is processed into pellets to create a recycled-content weatherproof coating.
To find out more about Dell’s sustainability commitments, visit https://www.dell.com/en-uk/dt/sustainable-devices/index.htm