Turning wheat waste into packaging
|Dell has been an innovator in using materials from nature for packaging, having already incorporated bamboo and mushrooms. Now, the next evolution in sustainable materials is wheat straw.|
Wheat straw is the leftover canes after the wheat grains are harvested and is treated mostly as waste. As such, in some countries (like China) farmers burn it, contributing to air pollution and creating a public health hazard. However, a new initiative will upcycle this straw into the boxes Dell manufactures in China to ship products.
Taking another cue from nature, the wheat straw will be broken down with enzymes in a process similar to that found in a cow’s digestive system. This process will use approximately 40 percent less energy and almost 90 percent less water than traditional chemical pulping.
Afterwards, the resulting material is mixed with other fibers — primarily from recycled paper — and formed into new boxes. Initially, about 15 percent of the box material will be made of wheat straw, with that increasing as the program evolves. The boxes will look and perform like regular cardboard, and they will be recyclable at the end of their life.
|Like bamboo, wheat is fast growing, making it a readily available renewable material.|
We are using approximately 200 tons of wheat straw will be used annually, reducing an estimated 180 tons of CO2 emissions (about the same amount of carbon fixed by nearly 150 acres of forest). The wheat straw program is part of our bigger goal of establishing a waste-free packaging stream by 2020. Dell will do this by:
Dell was the first technology company to use bamboo cushions to replace foam in shipping lightweight products such as notebooks. We are also experimenting with mushrooms as an organic alternative to foam for heavier products such as servers. Both materials are either recyclable or compostable.
|FY14 Progress Points|
|Increased the percentage of packaging using sustainable materials to 58 percent, up from 57 percent in FY13|
|Introduced wheat straw packaging, avoiding 180 tons of CO2 emissions|
|Awarded the first Visionary Award for The Global Packaging Industry by Packaging Digest|
|FY14 Corporate Responsibility Report|