As the population grows, more join the middle class (and adopt their consumption habits) and pressure on natural resources increases, we all must look at new ways of doing things. That includes embracing a circular economy where all materials are valuable and the concept of “waste” is designed out of the system. Dell’s position is clear and we are committed to making this shift easy, efficient and productive for our customers.

Linear vs. Circular

The traditional linear model of the economy draws regularly on resources to create products that eventually end up as trash: raw materials are harvested, transformed, sold as goods and wind up in landfills or otherwise outside the economy. The circular economy looks for ways to design out this waste and obtain the most value from resources we use. By looking at the whole system, considering all the inputs and striving to eliminate the linear components, we can use resources more efficiently and for longer periods of time.


circular economy

How Dell is closing the loop and working towards a circular economy. Play Video
The system relies on designing products with the entire lifecycle in mind (including ease of reuse, repair and recycling), finding more efficient materials and means (including use of renewable resources) and looking at new business models that transform processes and relationships.

Estimates from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and others show a full-fledged shift to circular economies could save an estimated $1 trillion per year in materials and could generate 400,000 new jobs in Europe alone.

closed loop


Technology and the Circular Economy

From the beginning, Dell has been a leader in designing products with the whole lifecycle in mind – emphasizing reuse, repair and recyclability as well as smart material choices and easy recycling options for our customers. Our work with closed-loop plastics is a great example of these areas working together.

Using plastics recovered from technology collected through our recycling efforts to make new plastic parts gives these plastics an extended life, has a smaller carbon footprint, and even reduces costs. The closed-loop project was certified by UL Environment and was the first major technology project to follow their new standard.
Additional analysis has shown the net benefit of this closed-loop approach in terms of natural capital are significant –a 44% ($1.3 million annually) greater benefit compared to virgin plastics.

We also have developed a UL Environment-certified closed-loop process for recycling gold from e-waste back into new motherboards. That process can cause 99% less environmental damage than mining virgin gold.

The circular economy is about more than just material choices, however. In the spirit of delivering technology with fewer resources used, Dell cloud services help customers scalably provision various types of technology for their workforce or their customers without tying it to new hardware. In many cases, this is also transferring work from larger form-factor devices (such as a desktop) to smaller form-factor devices, like a tablet, thin client or even a phone.

Virtualization is another way our customers can extend their technology without taking on new resources. Migrating physical servers to virtual ones and consolidating can lower monthly power and cooling costs and reduce the whole data center footprint, delaying or even eliminating the need to build new facilities.

Using Technology for Good

The role technology will play in enabling the circular economy goes even further. As the Internet of Things (IoT) begins to integrate cloud, networking, sensors, Big Data and analytics, it will drive new learnings that affect how resources are deployed. Dell’s work with The Pecan Street Project and smart grid technologies, for example, is helping everyone better understand home energy use. We have also opened the Dell Internet of Things Lab in partnership with Intel as a working site for customers to test new ideas, software and solutions.

circular economy video

Dell’s Sr. VP Corporate Responsibility. Play Video
This transition to a circular economy cannot happen in a vacuum. It will require both innovation and collaboration across industries. Entrepreneurs will be key to filling gaps and identifying new ways of working. And technology has an important role to play in facilitating it all.