Closed-Loop Cartridges

HP Inc.

9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action 17. Partnerships for the Goals

Overview

Meet the innovative cartridge that has made printing greener than ever; HP's Original Ink and Toner Cartridges! Paired with the Planet Partners Recycling Program, this handy and widely used office appliance has revolutionized the sustainability of paper-printing. With 80% of the innovation made from collected plastic bottles and the ease of an implemented recycling collection program, these cartridges promote circularity in a straggling, 'take, make, dispose' world. A majority of plastic-waste collection takes place in under-subsidized and waste-mismanaged communities like Haiti, where HP Inc. creates occupational and educational opportunities for locals.

Author

Rawan Soujaa

Rawan Soujaa

School

York University- Schulich School of Business

York University- Schulich School of Business

Professor

Charles Cho

Charles Cho

Innovation

If you have ever wondered where your recycled plastic goes, the answer might be in a very unexpected place: in your office, your classroom, or even your own home – inside your printer of all places!

The Original HP Ink and Toner Cartridge is a closed-loop, sustainable innovation; more than 80% of ink cartridges contain 45-70% postconsumer recycled content and 100% of toner cartridges contain 5-38% recycled content, composed of up-cycled plastic bottles and other recycled plastic and materials. This product can be found in HP stores and associated retailers world-wide, and is compatible with every HP printer model available, offered in standardized colour or black ink.

According to Cartridge World, more than 13 cartridges are thrown away every second, with each unit taking 1,000 years to decompose. However, this product signifies more than just another premium office tool with an ‘Environmentally-Friendly’ tag. Similar to many of HP Inc.’s Original products, it aims to tackle sustainability across all frontiers, and throughout every step of the product’s life-cycle. From responsible sourcing, to reduced packaging, to resource-saving usage, and appropriate recycling. This product emerged, like many others, “in the pursuit of promoting a circular economy and closed-loop products and services”, thereby disrupting the classical business model of ‘take-make-dispose’.

There’s a “whole list of stuff that can’t go into any of [the] products”, therefore quality is controlled by an HP document called the General Specification for the Environment (GSE). HP ensures that all vendors have agreed to and signed this document, that all vendors are regularly audited, and that these results are publicly produced to ensure transparency. These specifications are tightly-managed, spanning beyond chemical content compliance to ensure the achievement of zero-forced labour, limiting GHG emissions, and more. It is critically claimed that “70% of a product’s environmental impact is determined in the design phase”. This claim has encouraged HP’s design engineers to integrate formal design programming for circularity and sustainability, a program which has been in place since 1992.

Closed-Loop Cartridges

Rosette's Story (pictured) is an integral part of HP's Original Ink and Toner Cartridges; HP was able to take advantage of the waste-mismanagement issue in the Haitian community through employing locals to collect plastic bottles for repurposing and up-cycling. (All photos are the property of HP Inc.)

Inspiration

As a sustainability leader, partner and champion for decades, HP Inc. often collaborates with other organizations, such as Los-Angeles based Homeboy Electronics Recycling, in the pursuit of collecting and repurposing resources (HP Inc. Sustainability Report 2017). HP also aims to impart a social impact; at Homeboy Electronics Recycling they trained and employed previously incarcerated and struggling labour force to repair electronics.

Over a decade ago, an engineer at HP Inc. sat at his desk with a new idea developing in his head. “If we’re bringing all this stuff back, (with the HP Planet Partners program now 28 year old) wouldn’t it be cool if we could take these plastics and put them back into the same products?”. While “plastics are the holy grail of recycling”, it wasn’t that simple. On a chemical scale, plastics are a complex material group to break down and recycle; each variety is chemically unique. Further, they are particularly hard to recycle or up-cycle when found in a contaminated state, such as marine plastics. This means that high-application of plastics in the manufacturing process becomes very difficult, even for the seemingly simple plastic casing of an ink cartridge. If HP was going to execute this to-scale, they were going to need some help from a prominent, compliant vendor. After a global search they eventually partnered with Jean-Luc Lavergne, CEO of the Lavergne Group Inc, a leader in sustainable resin engineering based in Montreal.

In 2016, HP Sustainability Program Manager, Shelley Zimmer and Global Lead Ellen Jackowski, partnered with several organizations, including the non-for-profit, Thread International, which transformed “[this] environmental excellence story that then created a human benefit too”. Having heard about HPs work on upcycling plastic bottles in their closed loop recycling process, Thread International proposed that the company employ their environmental mission to solve the trash and sanitation epidemic in Haiti. With limited access to appropriate waste management infrastructure and systems, Haiti had accumulated billions of plastic bottles and containers sitting idly in landfills and ocean coasts. Furthermore, a majority of the Haitian community was left distraught and displaced following the earthquake in 2010. HP’s involvement has equitably employed Haitian locals to collect and filter through plastic from landfills, and then be sent to Lavergne Group for refinement. In April 2019, HP announced a further $2 million Investment in Haiti to create a wash line to treat & recover even more marine plastics.

Overall impact

What does the Head of Sustainable Impact of HP Canada hope to achieve in the grand scheme of things? To transform sustainable products into sustainable services. “We’ve used ‘recycling’ as a prop for over-consumption…as the solution for climate change”. However, what we need to do is show society what a circular economy looks like, we need to educate others on climate literacy. This can be accomplished through actualizing a business model that “helps keep products, components, and materials operating at a high level for as long as possible”. In the long-term, HP hopes to operate and innovate around progressing through their Sustainable Development Goals, including responsible production and manufacturing, eliminating poverty, climate action and more.

Business benefit

The HP Board of Directors and investors are growingly prioritizing top-to-bottom sustainability strategies which will reflect well on the business and drive customer satisfaction. “This [innovation] was not a little pilot project, this translated into a full-scale, heavy production process” that has inspired a long line of hardware as well. Last year, HP produced their first printer line, HP Envy Photo Printers, with closed-loop printer plastic in the housing of the hardware itself. Overall, a sustainable focus has not only benefitted HP’s market reputation, but has also led to more unique, profitable innovations. Customers in over 60 countries currently participate in the Planet Partners recycling program and are involved in this closed-loop practice. By working in conjunction with their customers to reuse and repurpose materials, HP Inc. is gradually transforming into a service company.

Social and environmental benefit

With the help of the First Mile Coalition, the Original HP Ink Cartridge innovation has created reliable income opportunities for adults in Haiti, and provided 100 Haitian children with access to education, medical assistance and food. The aim for the initiative behind this innovation is to continue to provide a higher standard of living for those who collect plastic material and add value. Further, in the wake of this tangible action, HP Inc. has been able to create long-lasting partnerships with retailers like Best Buy and WWF Climate Savers. This has encouraged the alignment and union of several corporations to work towards comprehensively accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Through this innovation, HP has managed to recycle more than 2 billion plastic bottles, with more than 99,000 tonnes of recycled plastic used in HP ink and toner cartridges in 2017 alone. Additionally, a total of 271,400 tonnes of hardware and supplies have been recycled since the beginning of 2016, with the world-wide established recycling program accepting 500 million customer-returned cartridges.

Interview

Frances Edmonds, Head of Sustainability at HP Canada

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HP Inc.

HP Inc.

Palo Alto, California, US

Business Website: https://www8.hp.com/us/en/home.html

Year Founded: 1939

Number of Employees: 10000+

Hewlett Packard (HP) Inc. is a multinational information technology company with sustainability at the core of their product and service offerings. They continue to find unique and effective ways of incorporating long-term circularity in traditionally environmentally-detrimental devices, such as their printers, cartridges and paper. In addition, the company has been a champion of ethical sourcing and positive social impact, and holds itself to the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and operational compliance.