Dell Puts Less Crap In a Box

The computer manufacturer has eliminated 8.7 million pounds of packaging in a single year: good for the planet, great for Dell’s bottom line. How did they do it?



Fact: most electronics manufacturers bury their products in excessive amounts of packaging. For proof, look no further than Dell, which managed to eliminate 18.2 million pounds of packaging since 2008 and 8.7 million pounds in the last year alone. So how did they do it?

Dell’s reductions are the direct result of focusing on what it calls the “three C’s” of packaging strategy–cube (meaning packaging volume),
content, and curbside recyclability of
materials. “Our customers spoke loudly and clearly when they said they would like smaller packaging,” says Oliver Campbell, Dell’s worldwide senior manager for packaging. “Teams within Dell understand that this is a core customer commitment, so it’s becoming much easier to implement these changes.”

Improvements in packaging volume rely on creativity from packaging engineers. “Engineers are seeing themselves as environmental champions,” Campbell says. In one example, engineers figured out a way to cut packaging on the Inspiron 15 laptop so that that 63 laptops fit on each shipping pallet instead of 54.

Dell has also upped the amount of recycled content in its packaging, with an overall recycled content of 35%. “Bamboo continues to be a wonderful sustainable material for us,” Campbell says. “We continue to investigate other materials like sugar cane pulp and rice
hulls that we could utilize in other regions where we’ve built factories.”

The third C–curbside recycling–is a bit tricky, because bamboo isn’t yet accepted by most municipal curbside recycling programs. The material is both renewable and compostable, however. Dell anticipates similar problems with sugar cane pulp, rice hulls, and other renewable materials. We suppose that’s just the price a company pays for being ahead of the curve.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more