How using ocean garbage plastics saves money on packaging

Dell gives us a problem and a solution

Picture: cyril louat, Flickr

Picture: cyril louat, Flickr

Our oceans are a common pool resource. We as individuals, communities and businesses have the right to enjoy them, but also a responsibility to protect them. Our world’s ocean creates more than 70 per cent of our oxygen — that’s every other breath. Yet mass consumerism, irresponsible behaviours and insufficient recycling infrastructure are creating potentially irreparable damage. One of the biggest offenders permeates every aspect of our lives: plastic.

Asia Pacific is home to some of the most celebrated beaches in the world, but a visit to Sydney’s Bondi or Bali’s Kuta will reveal just the tip of the iceberg. We risk inflicting damage beyond repair if we don’t start making changes.

The scale of the problem is almost inconceivable. Each year, at least eight million tonnes of plastic finds its way into our oceans. This is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If this carries on, the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish by weight.

Our global ocean crisis demands a response from businesses and we all share the responsibility to rethink our practices. While the man-made weapons of ocean destruction are varied, plastic is the one we wield power over every day. Businesses must take ownership of the full lifecycle of their plastic products to prevent the waste washing up on the beach against our feet.

With sufficient intervention, innovation and collaboration across industries and communities, we can stem the plastic tide. According to a report by Oceans Conservancy in 2015, with a concerted commitment to reducing waste, the global ocean plastic leakage can be reduced by approximately 45 per cent over the next 10 years.

Dell undertook a study to determine if ocean plastics could be used in consumer packaging. The success of that study has enabled them to create a commercial-scale supply chain dedicated to collecting and recycling ocean plastic for use as packaging material.

In February, Dell shipped its first laptop with the technology industry’s first packaging trays made using recycled plastic. This project helps keep packaging out of the waste stream and within the circular economy. It’s estimated that in 2017, the pilot will keep 7,260 kilograms of plastic from entering our oceans.

While there is a clear sustainability case for keeping our oceans free from plastic, it also makes a lot of economic sense from a business perspective. In the case of ocean plastics, Dell has already seen cost savings over other recycled-content plastics and anticipates costs to continue falling as the program scales.

Innovating business as usual can be a hurdle but it’s not impossible, particularly when the situation demands an urgent response. With the situation so dire and the case for change so clear, the time to rethink our business practices is now. If more business leaders commit to holding themselves accountable and challenge one another, together we will build a more resilient and more profitable global ocean.

Ben Jackson is General Manager, Consumer and Small Medium Business, Dell ANZ

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