Reimagining Plastic Recycling for Technology and the Planet

Justin Eure, Global Communications Manager

Even as we feel the pains and pressures of COVID-19, we want to take a moment to observe Earth Day and look forward to a brighter, greener, more connected future. For Lenovo, this is an opportunity to share our renewed commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly transformation.

In the year 2020, one material is top of mind when we think about recycling: plastic. According to the National Geographic Society, production and consumption of plastic has accelerated so rapidly that 8.3 billion metric tons of mostly disposable products have been created, generating an extraordinary amount of waste. The biggest problem with disposable plastic waste? It takes 400 years to breakdown, meaning most plastic items you use and don’t recycle will far outlive your existence—and generations beyond you—on planet Earth. We cannot spend four centuries waiting for that plastic to disappear while it pollutes our planet, harms animals, and toxifies water.

We all must take a stance and halt the staggering consumption of plastic (reduce), ensure that plastics we do consume aren’t discarded after one-time use (reuse), and make sure we make the most of plastics’ 400-year lifespan by recycling it for continued use (recycle). Industries (not just individuals) must take responsibility for the scale of their decisions- especially the electronics industry- and support responsible management of “e-waste” or waste from electronics. E-waste has been reported as the fastest growing waste stream and poses challenges because of the expense and complexity of treating it in a way that is environmentally friendly. While Lenovo recognizes the challenges of responsibly managing e-waste, we know that we must take immediate, decisive action.

Since 2005, Lenovo’s research and development teams have been working with post-consumer content (PCC) suppliers to develop and qualify new grades of plastic resins for reuse in the manufacture of new Lenovo products. Our environmentally conscious product engineers within each business unit perform environmental and performance qualifications prior to their use, while our manufacturing team evaluates the ease of disassembly and recycling as it applies to the ‘circular economy’ concept.

In order to overcome the challenges of reducing the impact of e-waste, Lenovo works closely with trusted suppliers to ensure that all Lenovo products can be responsibly recycled.  Recycling e-waste for the manufacture of IT products presents significant challenges due to the unique structural, performance, and cosmetic requirements associated with these applications. In addition to the use of PCC, Lenovo is also driving the use of “closed-loop post-consumer plastics” or CL-PCR. “Closed-loop” refers to the continuous life cycle of the material, and “post-consumer” means that the plastics have already been used for a consumer products’ lifetime. Today, Lenovo uses closed loop post-consumer recycled content in 66 products and has used more than 21 million pounds (gross) of CL-PCR as part of our overall use of 241 million pounds (gross) of PCC overall since 2005.  In 2019 alone, Lenovo used 17 million pounds of PCC plastics.

In addition to our large-scale focus on PCC and CL-PCR, we’re excited to celebrate Earth Day 2020 by introducing an accessory conceived, designed, and made with sustainability at its core: the Lenovo Eco Pro Backpack. More than 83 percent of the backpack is made from recycled content and contains the equivalent of 34 plastic bottles and other materials. In an innovative and flexible process, recycled bottles are collected, crushed, chipped, and refined into pellets. These are then melted and spun into yarn, which is woven to make an ultra-durable fabric, lining, and trim for this backpack. The backpack’s sustainability, durability and smart design ensure that no details were compromised in the development of this product, and that we continue to deliver quality and ingenuity for our customers and our planet.

Lenovo Eco Pro Backpack

All of these efforts are made to transition Lenovo and its users from the linear economy (make→use→dispose) to a circular economy (make→use→return). We hope that you’ll join us in our efforts to reduce consumption and increase recycling of plastics on Earth Day.

For more information about Lenovo’s commitment to using recycled plastics, including Post-Consumer Recycled Content (PCC), in the manufacturing of its notebooks, desktops, workstations, monitors, and accessories, please visit our website at https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/sustainability-recycled-content.

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