Just about a month ago I had the chance to take a guided tour of HP's inkjet recycling center in Nashville TN. While we all are exposed to communications regarding recycling and other "green" efforts on a continuous basis these days, there is nothing like a little up-close look to make the reality (and difficulty) of a comprehensive program like HP has implemented.
Those efforts have been well documented, including in this blog (for example, see "HP's Green Office"), including the numbers. Even so, when HP's Jean Gingras,
North America Printing Supplies Environmental Marketing Manager, Imaging and Printing Group, tosses out numbers like "19.7 million pounds of recycled plastic used [in HP cartridges] in 2008" it's easy to think about that number (19.7 million pounds) in rather academic terms and questions (e.g. "let's see, how many tons is that?"). It's been rather hard, at least for me, to picture that in more real terms. And that's what the recycling plant tour did for my perspective -- HP and the rest of our industry are manufacturing a huge quantity of cartridges, and getting a large share of those back and putting them to further use is a huge undertaking (see photo). The handy benchmarks I like to use for industry size (like when HP hit an average ship rate of one million printers a week a few years back), now have new perspective.
"Reduced" packaging too
Regular readers may recognize that I have a liking for some of the more (seemingly) simple measures that can be done in the reduce-reuse-recycle hierarchy. Often, these are activities that don't get much attention, so here's one from the tour that I really like. Maybe this goes back to years and years ago to a bit of guilt (as an HP employee) when some of HP's ink cartridges were called out by an environmental publication for their excessive packaging, with its plastic "yogurt package" shipped in several other layers of cardboard. HP's reduction in inkjet cartridge packaging promises a 40% fewer materials used, and at the same time cutting down on mass allowing more efficient shipping and storage. (See graphic.)