SINCE 1997 HP RECYCLED 102MIL TONERS/INK
SINCE 1997 HP RECYCLED 102MIL TONERS/INK
2006-05-02 at 11:33:00 am #15132
Greening for Future Growth: Leader Lessons in Profiting From End-of-Life Planning
Having recently moved, I thought I could easily donate my two old computers. Wrong. No one wanted them. I also have two old cell phones sitting in the glove box of my car. They are now obsolete, and I have no idea what to do with them. I had a bad experience with a flat-panel TV that developed a black line across its screen on the day that the warranty expired. I’d like to give it away-maybe even toss it out the window-but how do I even throw it away? As a consumer, what do I do with obsolete consumer electronics products as lifecycles become shorter and shorter?
We all are familiar with the automotive answer: the acres and acres of rusting cars beside the highways buried in automotive graveyards. When the eyesore was just too much for the public to take, it became a great platform for Lady Bird Johnson to launch her Beautification program. Slowly this program led to the planting of trees, helping eradicate the problem, albeit at public expense. Of course, there was no automotive brand owner that stepped up to the plate to help solve this problem.
I wonder if consumer electronics companies could establish better market positioning if they took ownership of the product lifecycle from cradle to grave. Should we not be designing our products for demanufacturing and remanufacturing as we do for new product launch? Could this be an advantage in product positioning?
HP partners with the planet, Office Depot
Every day that an obsolete item sits it loses value. The cell phones in my glove box had more value when I placed them there than now, two years later. On Friday, I received the 2006 Hewlett-Packard Global Citizenship Report, a 107-page document on HP’s progress on social responsibility. Its work on demanufacturing and remanufacturing caught my eye.
HP introduced the Planet Partners return and recycling program for LaserJet print cartridges in 1991. Here’s what’s happened since:
* HP inkjet print cartridge return and recycling was introduced in 1997.
* Since 1997, 92 million LaserJet cartridges and 20 million HP inkjet print cartridges were returned and recycled through its global operations.
* In 2003, HP made it easier to recycle cartridges by including a postage-paid, return-for-recycling envelope in products sold in the United States and parts of Europe.
* Today, in many channels, customers are given coupons as a reward for recycling.
A parallel program for computer hardware return and recycling began in 1987. In 2005, HP recycled approximately 70 million pounds of electronic hardware in Europe, nearly 4 million pounds in Asia, and 40 million pounds in the Americas. Cumulatively, HP has recycled 757 million pounds of electronic products and supplies since 1987 through this and other programs (details can be found on HP’s website). Its goal is to recycle 1 billion pounds of electronic products and supplies by the end of 2007.
Another example is HP’s partnering with Office Depot to offer the first free, nationwide, in-store electronics recycling program in the United States. In this program, 10.5 million pounds of products were collected from 200,000 customers and transported to one of HP’s U.S. recycling facilities.
HP is a leader in redefining good engineering to include recyclability, making it easier to recycle electronic equipment. As a result, in 2004 HP introduced standards into its product launch process to do the following:
* Focus on modular designs that can be removed, upgraded, or replaced
* Eliminate glues and adhesives through the use of snap-in features
* Manufacture plastic parts weighing more than 25g according to ISO 11469 standards to speed up materials identification efforts using single plastic polymers
* Use molded-in colors and finishes instead of paint
Look to the recyclability of HP’s print cartridges as a good example. Since 1992, the average number of parts in the monochrome HP LaserJet print cartridge has been cut in half and the average number of plastic resins by more than two-thirds. This redesign greatly improves HP’s ability to remanufacture the print cartridges.
My colleague Eric Karofsky recently visited IBM’s Asset Recovery Center in Endicott, New York. This center and others were originally built to ensure that when excess, surplus, and scrap products from business channels needed to be disposed of, processes met environmental compliance standards.
Today the Endicott facility has become an essential part of IBM’s larger social responsibility efforts. It is one of the regional asset recovery centers IBM uses to manage end-of-life products. Annually, the facility demanufactures and scraps 28 million pounds, producing 1.5 million usable parts that are resold. More than 98% of this volume in the demanufacturing process is recycled, with less than 2% of the materials sent to landfills.
The Endicott facility looks like an assembly line factory, but its intent is to demanufacture: to quickly, efficiently, and safely disassemble finished goods to support downstream commodity material value chains. The disassembly process focuses on reclamation for the following:
* Part reuse, the harvesting of parts to support internal IBM service organizations, or the resell of parts externally. For example, do you know that one of your children’s toys may contain a chip that came from the Endicott center reclamation center, having been sold to a toy manufacturer?
* Precious metals that are reclaimed from printed circuit cards and components by specialized recyclers.
* Commodity type materials, like plastics and metals, that are processed by approved reclamation companies.
The processes at the Endicott facility and the other asset recovery centers help make IBM more socially responsible. The tightly controlled recovery center also helps ensure that IBM is in compliance with all regulatory requirements.
Green for greenbacks and customer loyalty
According to the United Nations Environment Program, 20 to 50 million tons of electronic waste are generated annually. WEEE, the European Union’s directive regarding electronic equipment waste, is an attempt to address the issue by making brand owners responsible for reclamation. While the directive is rife with implementation problems, it is helping propel the reclamation discussion globally. In the United States, this subject is mandated at the state and federal level, with additional initiatives cropping up globally.
Instead of being forced by governmental directive, though, what if brand owners act now to learn from early leadership in companies like HP and IBM? And as a part of this redesign, shouldn’t we redefine the customer buying experience by including this in brand positioning? The program needs to be developed based on a joint value proposition that allows both to win: the consumer needs to win by gaining easy disposal, and the manufacturer needs to win through established and profitable processes for remanufacturing. This change is pervasive, affecting the definition of design for supply initiatives and how companies go to market.
Also needed are collaborative systems for information and tools and support systems for selling, donating, or recycling used computers and electronics, much like eBay’s Rethink program
Customers are becoming more green minded, increasingly showing buying preference to companies that take this responsibility early. In the meantime, I’ll be here dusting my obsolete objects.