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Waste Not, Want Not: Harnessing Open Innovation for Circular Economies and Sustainable Impact

A world without waste. That’s our aspiration.

But what does this really mean? And how do we create lasting, positive change for the planet, our people, and communities?

To do this, we need to move away from our traditional approach of “take, make, dispose.” Think about it, there’s no way not to change: by 2050, we would need 2.3 Earths to sustain the resource demands of our global population.

Rethinking—and reinventing—practices across the supply chain, how we make products, ensuring materials are recycled, reused, and products are repaired to extend their life cycle is paramount.

Taking Action to Address Circular Economy Challenges

At HP, we take our roles as stewards of sustainable impact best practices seriously. It’s at the heart of our reinvention journey and helps us build the best value for our customers. "Our customers, consumers, and employees are passionate about the environment and social justice, and they expect companies like ours to lead with purpose," says Dion Weisler, President and CEO of HP Inc.

In 2018, we used 21,250 metric tons of recycled plastic in our products, repaired 4.34 million units of hardware, and recycled 133,800 metric tons of hardware and supplies. But we know that there is no magic (or simple) solution to tackle big, thorny global issues. It will involve many partners across the globe to help us achieve this vision.

This is why HP is excited to work with and support MIT Solve, as they are not just talking about the challenges, they are setting course to solve them. To this end, HP’s 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing and Corporate Sustainable Impact teams recently hosted a Solveathon at our Palo Alto campus centered around Solve’s Circular Economy Challenge.

At this event, we brought together creative, like-minded thinkers in the Bay Area community to ideate on solutions that could enable us to shift supply chains from linear to circular, helping to reduce waste and improve lives along the way.

Here are a few areas we covered:

Closing the Loop on Ocean-Bound Plastics

Three years ago, HP launched an ambitious program in Haiti to help tackle ocean plastic pollution. What’s really cool about this program? It’s a fully functioning supply chain, providing jobs in the community, and education and health and safety programs for plastics collectors and their families.

Plus, it has diverted more than 25 million plastic bottles to be upcycled into HP print cartridges and hardware products—that’s approximately 716,000 pounds (325 metric tons) of plastic material that might otherwise have washed into the Caribbean Sea. Through this initiative, we have opened a new market opportunity, providing a steady revenue stream for local collectors, enabling safer working conditions, and local educational opportunities. And it continues to grow.

We explored more ideas on how to create or support other programs like it, as the best way to eliminate plastics in the ocean is to produce less plastic and keep existing plastics in circulation.

Rethinking Product Design

New industry 4.0 technologies will provide the backbone to strengthen the business case for sustainable manufacturing. 3D Printing has the potential to transform how entire industries design, make, distribute, use, repair, and reuse. 

It can help reduce the amount of material used to create a product, and new design approaches like generative design can help “lightweight” things like cars and airplanes, which in turn seriously reduces their CO2 footprint during their use phase.

Reinventing Supply Chains

All agreed that shortening and simplifying supply chains was a good place to start to help reduce impact to the environment. Marketplaces to bring together supply and demand sides for reuse materials, from clothing scraps to 3D printed parts, methods to better trace and identify materials to avoid contaminated waste streams, and services to address the large challenge of reverse logistics are all areas ripe for innovation.

What’s Next?

According to Judy Glazer, HP’s Global Head of Sustainability and Product Compliance, who is leading the charge to use 30 percent post-consumer recycled content plastic across HP’s personal systems and print product portfolio by 2025, what’s apparent is that we all need to start thinking beyond iterative improvements from materials recycling solutions to drive long term value and sustainable impact. “We need to look beyond current approaches and design with sustainability in mind, so we retain to most value,” says Glazer.

This is where Solve comes in. Solve finds tech entrepreneurs from around the world and brokers partnerships to scale their innovative work. This year, Solve received more than 300 solutions to the Circular Economy Challenge, with more than 1,400 from 106 countries to the four 2019 Challenges in total.

And in September at the Solve Challenge Finals pitch event, MIT-appointed judges will select the Circular Economy Solver teams: innovators with diverse ideas to help people create and consume goods that are renewable, repairable, reusable, and recyclable. Through the power of partnership, we can think outside the box, support critical innovations, and drive lasting, transformational change.

Read the 2018 HP Sustainable Impact Report to learn more about what HP is doing to transform for a circular and low-carbon future and find out more about final solutions submitted for Solve’s Circular Economy Challenge.


Ocean plastic pollution in Haiti. Image courtesy of HP.

Related Challenge

Sustainability

Related Event

at Solve Challenge Finals 2019

Apella | New York City

See Event Details
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