HP "Circulation" Plastic Recycling Process

Hewlett-Packard has built an unprecedented "cycle" plastic recycling system that uses recycled plastic bottles and cartridges for the manufacture of new original HP inkjet print cartridges. This is a revolutionary breakthrough in design. This process enables HP inkjet cartridges to use 70% to 100% of renewable resources while meeting HP's high performance standards. After many years of research and development, design experts, chemical experts and partner teams have refined this complex scientific process. Recycling systems have effectively reduced HP's environmental impact and maintained high standards of design innovation.

From "regeneration downstream" to "upstream regeneration"

Over the years, HP has been using recycled plastics in product development and is committed to developing sustainable product scrapping solutions. For example, HP’s Planetary Partner Rewards program supports the free and convenient recycling of HP print cartridges and toner cartridges, while ensuring that recycled ink cartridges and cartridges are not refilled, sold, or landfilled.

Maximizing the use of high-tech materials recycled through electronic product regeneration programs is a long-term challenge for companies in Hewlett-Packard and other industries. Plastics recovered from high-tech products are used to reconstruct common products, such as park benches or floors, and are sometimes criticized as “downstream regeneration,” although these uses brought a second life to recycled materials. HP has been seeking better solutions, and has therefore established a sustainable "closed loop" system that supports the maximum value of recycled materials, including the use of recycled plastics to create new HP inkjet cartridges.

HP's considerable investment in recycling and reuse of resources and infrastructure has laid a solid foundation for improving the plastics regeneration process. HP supplies recycled through the Planet Partner Program are shipped to a Hewlett Packard consumables recycling facility in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, where it is safely recycled through multiple recycling processes.

The main material of most HP inkjet ink cartridge products is polybutylene terephthalate glass fiber filling material, which is a special material that can ensure the performance of HP inkjet cartridges. We must ensure that the cartridges made from recycled plastics and new plastics have the same reliability. Therefore, HP engineers and chemists worked together to ensure that recycled plastics and new plastics have the same performance and meet HP's high performance standards. The previous recycling process failed to make effective use of key materials, and the new method has achieved great success in this area.

The new process has the following improvements:

HP will mix resin (RBR), additives, and PET extracted from recycled bottles to solve the problem of insufficient viscosity and changes in thermal and mechanical properties.

A number of additives include: chain extenders for obtaining the desired molecular weight; impact modifiers for providing adequate resistance during product drop tests; nucleating agents for restoring PET to crystals.

HP added more glass fiber to RBR extracted from recycled plastics because the fibers in RBR have been destroyed during the plastic regeneration process of inkjet cartridges.

Specially designed treatment methods can produce a "dro-in" RPET resin that does not have the same properties as the original material and can be used in current casting and manufacturing processes. This new RPET formula is also not just as simple as regrinding or melting plastics. HP and partners re-mixed and designed the materials in an unprecedented way. They “recycled” ordinary plastic beverage bottles and recycled materials extracted from HP cartridges to make original HP inkjet print cartridges.

Future opportunities and applications

Since piloting the program, HP's worldwide use of recycled plastics is sufficient to fill more than 200 truck trailers (1) and it has produced more than 200 million HP inkjet cartridges globally. Last year alone, HP used more than 5 million pounds of RPET for manufacturing original print cartridges, which is expected to double in 2008.

HP uses recycled plastics to manufacture cartridges and completes a complete product design cycle. Resins synthesized using innovative methods are no less expensive than new resins in terms of price and performance. The use of new materials will advance HP's innovation in environmental design, such as the production of HP hardware from recycled plastics.

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