Global computer manufacturer Dell Technologies says it will use approximately 1 million pounds of recycled carbon fiber this year, more than double the volume from the previous two years—880,000 pounds.
The carbon fiber recycling program was announced in 2015 as part of the company’s 2020 Legacy of Good Plan, which includes using 100 million pounds of recycled-content plastic and other sustainable materials in its products.
Carbon fiber was first used in the Latitude 7440 and is now being used across the entire Latitude 5000 line (14 products to date). “We are looking to expand use beyond just Latitude into other notebook enclosures, where this material is best suited to be used – which will lead to volume growth,” Stephanie Schafer, a senior engineer who heads Dell’s sustainability efforts, told The Molding Blog.
In 2014, Dell became the first IT company to use UL-environment certified closed-loop recycled plastics in a computer when it launched the OptiPlex 3030 All-in-One desktop. Since then Dell has shipped 95 products with closed-loop recycled plastics.
Also as part of the 2020 program, Dell earlier this year shipped its first packaging diverted from becoming ocean waste. Recycled plastics are collected from waterways and beaches for use in the new packaging tray for the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. The ocean plastic is mixed (25 percent) with other recycled HDPE plastics (the remaining 75 percent) from sources like bottles and food storage containers.
Since 2008, Dell has included post-consumer recycled plastics in its desktops, and as of January 2017, reached its first 2020 goal of using 50 million pounds of recycled materials in its products.
For the carbon fiber initiative, Dell partnered with resin compounds’ supplier SABIC, which uses virgin and recycled polycarbonate in the carbon composite. SABIC sorts, chops and pelletizes off spec, excess, or scrap from carbon fiber manufacturing processes after it has been respooled and resized. The parts are produced by Dell’s existing injection molders.
Use of the carbon fiber fits into a trend toward lighter and thinner notebooks, Schafer said at a webinar today on “Closing the Circle in Manufacturing Through Eliminating Barriers to Using Recycled Content”. Schafer also said that potential use of PCR is limited in engineering applications because repeated histories compromise the mechanical properties of the compound.
The webinar, part of a series, was organized by the North American Plastics Recycling Alliance (NAPRA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). NAPRA membership includes PLASTICS and the American Chemistry Council.
Those organizations want manufacturers to significantly increase use of recycled plastics because of growing challenges, including low fossil fuel prices and China’s coming ban on plastics’ waste imports.