ROUND ROCK, TX — The bamboo packaging that Dell is using to protect laptops has been certified compostable.
Dell started using bamboo-based cushioning late last year in its packaging for the Inspiron Mini 10 and Mini 10v netbooks, and recently started using it with other Inspiron laptops.
For the laptops, the bamboo cushioning is replacing plastic packaging, and in the netbooks it replaced molded paper pulp.
Dell could not provide specifics on how much plastic and molded paper the bamboo is replacing due to other packaging changes it made. "In general, we've engineered our boxes to be smaller so it's tough to make a weight comparison," said Oliver Campbell, Dell's senior manager of packaging worldwide.
The bamboo comes from a forest in China that holds Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, and Dell is working with its bamboo supplier, Unisource Global Solutions, to receive FSC certification for the bamboo's entire chain of custody, from forest to manufacturing.
"We currently use it only on products packaged in China, so it's a local packaging solution for us," Campbell said. "We're researching other agricultural-based materials in other regions where we, or our suppliers, have packaging operations."
Bamboo is being used to make only the interior cushioning because Dell has not found sufficient bamboo supply that would provide enough material for the entire laptop and netbook boxes, which currently contain 25 percent post-consumer recycled content.
The bamboo cushioning was recently certified to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-6400 standard, which certifies materials that compost in municipal and industrial composting environments.
Campbell said the bamboo packaging is also compostable in home composting, so long as it's in a hot, active compost environment.
Dell is also hoping the bamboo material will be certified as recyclable with paper products.
"Basically a specific percentage of communities surveyed must reply that they are able to recycle the bamboo," Campbell said, adding that Georgia Pacific has certified that the cushioning meets the necessary mechanical requirements to be recycled with mixed pulp or corrugate without being detrimental. "Our next step," he said, "is one of education in sharing these engineering results and then re-conducting the survey."
Using bamboo packaging is one of the many ways Dell is trying to reach its packaging goals, announced in late 2008, of reducing packaging volume by 10 percent, increasing recycled content by 40 percent and increasing the amount of curbside recyclable content by 75 percent, all by 2012.
Bamboo also provides a number of environmental benefits, since it grows fast, does not need much water, does not need pesticides and pulls more carbon dioxide out of the air than hardwood trees while putting out more oxygen.
Bamboo packaging - Courtesy of Dell