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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

HP Finds New Way to Recycle Old Plastic

By Matt Neznanski, Gazette-Times (Corvallis, Oregon)

Hewlett-Packard today announced yet another use for those leftover plastic water bottles: new inkjet cartridges.

After five years of development, the recycled plastic now comprises between 70 to 100 percent of the total material in new cartridges.

“It really has been able to allow us to develop a closed-loop system,” said Ken Fleming, director of HP’s North American Supplies Marketing.

More than 200 million cartridges have been manufactured using the process. Last year, HP used more than 5 million pounds of recycled plastic in its inkjet cartridges. The company hopes to double that amount this year.

Corvallis engineers played a significant role in the company’s five-year process of bringing the recycled material into manufacturing plants. The company’s environmental policy and strategy program is based here. “Environmental stewards” are assigned to every design team. Their goal: find ways to reduce environmental impact throughout a product’s life cycle.

“A lot of the heavy lifting in terms of product management was done here in Corvallis,” said Scott Canonico, manager of the company’s environmental program.

The newly-announced proprietary process involves more than just refilling old inkjet containers with ink. It is a new way to combine different types of plastics — from water bottles to used inkjet cartridges — into a stable, reliable kind of plastic that is suitable for a number of technical applications.

That’s not easy, Canonico said.

For one thing, the material has to be predictable under a range of conditions, including how it reacts to heat and chemicals and what mechanical stress it will endure.

Because HP engineers now understand the characteristics of the recycled plastic, and how it will react in various situations, Canonico said that the material has the potential to be a “drop-in” solution for future products from the company. It already is being used in parts for one of the company’s scanners, for instance.

HP has collected used laser printer cartridges for recycling since 1991 and inkjet cartridges since 1997. The company has recycled more than 1 billion pounds of hardware and printer waste worldwide since collection efforts began.

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