Dell targets e-waste with recycled gold initiative

Fresh from incorporating ocean plastics into products, technology firm Dell has announced an industry pilot aimed at using recycled gold from discarded electronics in new computer motherboards.

Dell has a target in place to use 100 million pounds of recycled materials in its products by 2020, and has turned its attention to the growing electronic waste (e-waste) mountain, which produced 44 million metric tonnes of waste in 2016 alone.

The computer firm is launching an industry-first pilot to place recycled gold from used electronics into computer motherboards, specifically the Latitude 5285 2-in-1s. The pilot will commence in the Spring and the reclaimed gold process, delivered by Dell’s environmental partner Wistron GreenTech, is said to have a 99% lower environmental impact the traditionally mined gold.

“At Dell, we pride ourselves in finding better, more efficient ways to do business particularly throughout our supply chain,” the company’s vice chairman Jeff Clarke said. “Materials innovation – where and how we source things like plastic, carbon fibre and now gold for our products – is increasingly important for us.

“When you think about the fact that there is up to 800 times more gold in a ton of motherboards than a ton of ore from the earth, you start to realise the enormous opportunity we have to put valuable materials to work.”

Dell was one of the major tech firms urged to improve transparency in electronics recycling supply chains by the Basel Action Network (BAN), the global toxic trade watchdog organisation.

Currently, a little more than 12% of global e-waste is recycled into other products and just 20% of e-waste is documented as being collected and recycled. There’s a huge economic potential attached to the waste, with Americans discarding around $60m in gold silver annually through unwanted phones. From an environmental aspect, reuse of these materials limits the pollutants associated with mining for materials.

Circular collection

Dell announced the pilot alongside the unveiling of its Circular Collection. Created in partnership with actress and activist Nikki Reed and eco-conscious jewellery brand Bayou with Love, the new collection offers US-made jewellery made from gold sourced from Dell’s various recycling programmes.

“Bayou with Love was created to bring greater awareness to the human impact on our planet and show that beautiful items can come from sustainably sourced and recycled materials,” Reed, the co-founder of Bayou with Love, said.

“By recycling gold that was once considered ‘waste,’ Dell and I are working to create an environment where we continuously reuse resources and strive for zero waste.”

Dell believes the closed-loop process can support the creation of millions of new motherboards over the next 12 months. Since 2012, Dell has recycled more than 50 million pounds of post-consumer recycled materials into new products.

One of the key areas of Dell’s recycling programme is ocean plastics. Last year, Dell unveiled new computer packaging trays made from recycled ocean plastics which will prevent 16,000 pounds of plastic from entering into oceans annually.

Dell is forming a collaborative initiative alongside General Motors and Interface to create the world’s first commercial-scale supply chain for ocean-bound plastics, before they seep into waterways.

Dell at the edie Sustainability Leaders Forum

Dell’s senior vice president Claire Vyvyan is one of the expert speakers that will appear on stage at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum in January 2018.

Taking place on 24-25 January, the Sustainability Leaders Forum will bring together more than 600 ambitious professionals moving beyond environmental objectives to deliver transformational change and create brand value every year.

The two-day event, which runs alongside the Sustainability Leaders Awards, will feature interactive workshops and enhanced networking to give you the most comprehensive and immersive experience on the day. For more information and to book your place at the Forum, click here.

Matt Mace

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