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 user 2009-03-25 at 3:32:45 pm Views: 66
  • #22188

    How HP does green: Recycling facility tour
    the new millennium, we hear all about advancing science while moving
    forward responsibly. And why shouldn’t we try to protect the
    environment we live in as we try to make are lives better, easier?This
    is where the green movement has stepped in: responsible people (and
    companies) trying to reduce their impact, reuse their tools and recycle
    their waste.  Last week, Hewlett Packard (HP) was kind enough to give
    us a behind-the-scenes peek into their green effort with a tour of one
    of two inkjet cartridge recycling plants they run as of this writing.

    those readers who may be new to the HP green scene, I want to give a
    quick overview because in some ways HP has been ahead of the pack when
    it comes to environmental awareness. They set into place their Global
    Citizenship objective in the 1950’s and hired their first environmental
    control coordinator in 1970.

    Throughout the 70’s, HP put
    together environmental policy but in the 1980’s they turned policy into
    reality with their first recycling programs.Computer products and
    hardware were the first recycling programs in 1987 followed by the
    founding of the HP Plant Partners Program in 1991.  It was in 1991 that
    HP first started recycling toner cartridges; they added inkjet
    cartridges in 1997.   Twenty years after they started their first
    recycling programs, HP announced that they had recycled one billion
    pounds of computing hardware and cartridges.  And here’s the kicker:
    the company has set goals to recycle another billion pounds of material
    by the year 2010.

    Which is why I was excited to see the
    recycling plant in action; after all it is an important cog in the HP
    Closed Loop System for Plastics Recycling.I’m sure you are wondering
    what the HP Closed Loop System for Plastic Recycling is and it can be
    complicated to explain.  I’ll try my best to break it down simply.The
    closed loop starts with customers – maybe you, perhaps – sending in
    their original HP inkjet cartridges for recycling through HP’s Planet
    Partners Program.  All of the inkjet cartridges are sent to one of two
    HP recycling facilities: the Nashville location I visited recently and
    another plant in Germany.   At these facilities, the products are
    stripped and shredded and sent to the next stop in the closed loop
    That next stop happens to be a plant in Canada where the
    refined recycled material (clean PET shreds) are mixed with recycled
    plastic bottle resin and unnamed chemicals in a process called

    After compounding, the material is ready to be made
    into cartridges and is sent to one of four HP cartridge manufacturing
    plants internationally: Ireland, Asia Pacific, Puerto Rico and North
    America.And from there, the new cartridges – made from the recycled old
    cartridges – are shipped to stores and purchased by customers.  The
    chart below provided by HP may help explain this process better than I
    did.Now that you may have a grasp on the overall HP Closed Loop
    process, we can focus on how the Nashville facility fits into this
    picture.And that’s hard to do at first because the Nashville facility
    itself is unremarkable from the outside; it looks like any other
    warehouse you might pass by on the interstate or back road.  Looks can
    be deceiving though; it was nothing like I imaged a factory would
    be.For one thing, the facility was clean, relatively clutter free and
    spacious.  HP added several natural lighting panels to the ceiling in
    addition to typical fluorescent lighting which not only cuts back on
    energy bills but probably boosts morale.  I know how much I loathe
    working in florescent lighting all day!

    You can see the natural lighting panels above the machines
    factory is divided into two huge rooms.  The first room we toured was
    where the cartridges are brought in and sorted through by employees. 
    We didn’t see much of this area of the plant in use but our tour guides
    explained this was the first stage of sorting.

    There are several
    levels of sorting because the facility only recycles original HP inkjet
    cartridges but receives plenty of other materials on a daily basis.
    That list includes original HP toner cartridges (sent to the recycling
    facility in Virginia), remanufactured HP inkjet or toner cartridges,
    other branded cartridges and complete random items (including cell
    phones, batteries and Barbie dolls to name a few).

    You may
    wonder why they won’t recycle remanufactured HP inkjet cartridges. 
    HP’s official line is they can’t recycle cartridges handled by a third
    party due to what may or may not be present in the cartridges.

    cartridges have been sorted by employees, they are sorted by machines
    in several ways.  First, cartridges sent in individual envelopes are
    removed from their packaging using a large machine that pulls the paper
    from the body of the cartridge.After cartridges are removed from their
    packaging, they are sorted into cartridge families using an x-ray
    machine.  Fun fact: HP got the idea for this machine from a similar one
    used to make sure there are no bones left in your boneless chicken. 
    Fun, right?

    Cartridge families sorted, preshredding
    cartridge families then head to the shredder (not a pleasant fate, but
    keep the end goal in mind).  The shredded cartridges, combined with the
    sort manufacturing scrap brought to the plant, next has to pass the
    sink or float test.

    Cartridges on the way up, shredded materials on the way down
    the cartridges, there is foam (think carpet padding consistency) and
    residual ink.  The shredded material is sprayed with water and sorted
    so that just the plastic and metal pieces move forward and the foam is
    sorted out.

    Sorted foam from inside cartridges
    there, the machines pull out the precious metal with magnets.  This
    metal will also be recycled but at a different location.  The plastic
    shreds are ready to be refined and compounded at this point and are
    shipped off to the next location.

    Sorted unrefined plastic shreds
    here’s the cool part – those plastic shreds you see in the above
    pictures will be made into new cartridges – the HP 60 cartridge family
    has 60% recycled materials in each individual cartridges.   And after
    you done using the cartridge made from recycled materials it can be
    sent back to the Nashville factory to enter the closed loop system once
    again.What really hit home with me about the HP Closed Loop System is
    that it doesn’t actually make the company any money.  Recycling the
    cartridges is free for customers and the process is run through the
    Imaging and Printing Group.Recycling inkjet cartridges isn’t the only
    green project HP is working on either!  Don’t worry, faithful readers,
    PrinterComparison.com will follow up with information about other green
    initiatives that HP and other manufacturers are working on in the
    coming weeks.Find out more info on HP’s Eco Solutions and Global
    Citizenship projects on their site.  Want to see the tour yourself?
    Check out the HP video tour of the Nashville recycling facility.