How HP made the new Elite Dragonfly one of the most sustainable laptops ever

The hunger for the creation of new gadgets and technology always comes at a cost. They’re often made of materials that aren’t recycled and will contribute to a global epidemic of polluting oceans, water supplies, or worse.

This is something that HP has long wanted to change. As part of its ongoing sustainability efforts, HP has introduced a new laptop that’s unlike any other, made of 80% recycled materials. Everything from the speakers to the keyboard has been considered, and the result is one of the most sustainable laptops ever made.

Not your ordinary laptop

At a press event in New York City, we spoke with Ellen Jackowski, the Global Head of Sustainability Strategy & Innovation at HP. She leads the initiative at the company to make more sustainable products, and the focus of her work has culminated in the new second-generation HP Elite Dragonfly laptop.

From the outside, it looks like any other Windows 10 2-in-1. It sports a beautiful touch screen display, has the latest Intel 10th-gen processors, and even supports 5G connectivity. But what this laptop is made of is what matters.

For one, the chassis of the laptop is made of 90% recycled magnesium. Then, the keyboard is made of 50% recycled plastics from DVDs. Even the trackpad uses some recycled materials. It’s all part of what Jackowski calls the “circular economy,” aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.

“This laptop has over 80% recycled content in its mechanical parts,” Jackowski told Digital Trends. “Not only does it look amazing and have incredible battery life and performance, but over 80% of it is part of a circular economy.”

But HP isn’t new to environmental efforts. Jackowski tells us HP set an industry-leading goal of using 30% recycled materials in all products across personal systems and printing by the year 2025. She says that HP is now at 7% of this goal and is looking to innovate even more.

That puts HP ahead of Google, which only recently pledged to include recycled materials in all of its Made By Google products by 2022. It’s also somewhat in line with Apple’s commitment, which has been using 100% recycled tin from old logic boards in its new products. As of now, HP was recently ranked first on Newsweek’s list of Most Responsible Companies, notably ahead of competitors like Dell, Apple, and Microsoft.

With the new Dragonfly, HP is taking its sustainability efforts to a new level. Previously, just the speakers in the first version of the Dragonfly were made of ocean-bound plastic, which is mismanaged plastic waste like bottles. But now, even more of the laptop is made from recycled materials.

HP is also moving away from using so-called “virgin materials.” These are parts that use otherwise untouched natural resources and contain no post-consumer coatings or secondary industrial materials. Instead, HP is looking to use more recycled and upcycled content across all its products, including printing ink, monitors, and even laptops.

That is best displayed through a number of partnerships HP has made with organizations working in Haiti. The first was in 2016 with the First Mile Coalition. Through the partnership, people in Haiti have been hired to pick up plastic bottles so they wouldn’t go to waste. This ocean-bound plastic was then used to make new HP ink cartridges for printers.

In 2018, HP joined NextWave Plastics and announced it had sourced 250 metric tons of ocean-bound plastics from Haiti. It’s the equivalent of 12 million plastic bottles that would have otherwise gone straight to the ocean. These materials are collected, compounded, and mixed with recycled computer parts to create things like the speakers in the Dragonfly, or even the plastics on the HP Elite Display E273D monitor.

“By hiring collectors HP is changing what this is,” said Jackowski. “This is not waste. It’s a job, it’s money. It’s potentially an HP laptop.”

Sustainability efforts go beyond just laptops

But HP’s suitability efforts go beyond the product itself. Jackowski tells me that HP is also rethinking the packaging and design process in laptops, sleeves, and other products to be more environmentally friendly.

Much like Apple, HP is eliminating plastic out of the packaging and moving to more sustainable materials (also called circular materials) like molded pulp. Jackowski showed us that the trays in the box for an HP laptop are made out of molded pulp, and she even explained how HP no longer uses plastic to wrap the sleeves it sells for laptops.

“We think outside of hardware and into other aspects of what we’re producing,” said Jackowski. “We’re looking at every opportunity to change our materials to use more circular materials that are more sustainable.”

Importantly, HP is also using an interesting production process for its new sleeves, which Jackowski tells us are made with almost zero waste. Typically in the fabric industry, machines would cut a pattern out of material and create remnant waste. But, HP’s new sleeves are knitted on a new machine where it moves back and forth based on the design of the product. The only waste is a piece of string, and there is no excess material.

Other HP accessories are even made from recycled PET plastic, which is used to make new recycled plastic drinking bottles. That’s the circular economy working at full capacity.

With HP claiming that it has used 21,250 tons of recycled plastic in HP products, and sourced 450 tons (or 35 million bottles) of ocean-bound plastic bottles from Haiti, they’ve positioned themselves as leaders in the industry in this aspect.

The Elite Dragonfly puts to the best of these ambitions to great effect — and is hopefully a sign of the future for how are favorite pieces of tech will be made.

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