A product's packaging can constitute a significant portion of its overall environmental footprint. We design packaging that cost-effectively helps to protect our products while reducing the environmental impacts associated with the raw materials used, production, transportation, and recycling or disposal of the packaging.
Designing packaging is complex and, to be effective, solutions must be tailored to each product. A product's size, weight, and durability influence the packaging materials that can be used and, in turn, the product and its packaging influence the environmental footprint of transportation. (Read more about product transport.)
HP's guidelines for third-party packaging vendors balance factors such as the availability, quantity, type, and recyclability of materials, as well as product transport methods. Our General Specification for the Environment (GSE) includes requirements on restricted substances and other substances of concern.
In 2010, we launched a new environmental strategy for packaging, consisting of the six dimensions described below. (See Data and goals dashboard for associated goals.)
We strive to eliminate the use of substances of concern when alternatives with lower impact are readily available. We began to phase out PVC in packaging in 2007, and completed this process for virtually all packaging in 2010. (See related information regarding products in the Materials section.)
We increasingly work with third-party partners to reduce the amount of packaging used per product, while maintaining adequate protection of the products. We either stipulate that packaging cannot be more than twice the volume of the product it contains or require that local legal standards on packaging minimization are applied where they exist. This helps reduce the volume of materials used and packaging waste, and enhances the efficiency of product transport.
In 2010, HP took the following measures:
- We avoided the use of approximately 320 tonnes of packaging material by using our award-winning ClearView packaging to ship high-end printers. ClearView protects products using foam supports and a widely recyclable film wrapper, reducing packaging volume and decreasing weight by up to 70% compared with traditional corrugated cardboard and foam packaging (see photo).
- By removing polythene bags from HP Photosmart and Deskjet printer lines, we avoided enough plastic to cover 300 football fields.
- We introduced new packaging for the Palm Pre 2, which reduced packaging volume by 20%.
Customer demand for all-in-one products, such as the HP Compaq 6000 All-in-One PC, can also drive reductions in materials use and waste, while also helping to reduce shipping costs. We ship these products in one box, compared with traditional systems that require two boxes to transport a separate PC and monitor.
We have also reduced the amount of paper delivered with products, such as warranties and manuals. (See Paper for more information.)
We design packaging to enable reuse where feasible, while providing sufficient protection for our products. For example, several HP products—including all HP Deskjet and Photosmart printers—are packed in reusable bags made from recycled plastic bottles (see photo). When feasible and where possible, we reduce overall environmental impact. We also return corrugated fiberboard trays to manufacturers after they have been used for bulk shipping products to retailers.
We are working to increase the proportion of recycled content in all HP packaging materials, from the current average level of approximately 65%. The level of recycled content varies widely by region and by packaging material, so the minimum global level for a particular product type may be somewhat lower, while the proportion for some products, such as notebooks, is higher.
Where possible, we reduce our overall environmental impact. We are shifting from plastic packaging to paper, and molded pulp packaging that contains recycled content and/or has been certified according to a sustainable forest management standard. For many products—including some notebook and desktop computers, printers, and accessories—we use molded pulp made from post-consumer recycled and industrial paper waste, instead of expanded polystyrene.
Sometimes, plastic packaging may actually decrease environmental impact. For example, in some situations, molded pulp packaging would need to be significantly larger or heavier to provide a similar level of protection. In those cases, such as for large desktop PCs, we are increasingly using expanded polystyrene foam cushions that contain recycled plastic. All foam cushions used to package HP commercial desktops shipped in North America are made from 100% recycled material, and we are working to increase our use of recycled plastic material worldwide.
We have also replaced the 100% virgin fiber in retail packaging for HP consumer photo paper with 100% recycled fiber that contain a minimum of 35% post-consumer recycled content (with the balance being post-industrial recycled content).
We are working to substitute packaging that is difficult to recycle with more easily recyclable materials. This is often combined with a move towards increased use of recycled materials. For example, we substitute recycled and recyclable molded pulp for plastic cushions (see photo), and switch to expanded polystyrene or expanded polyethylene foam cushions made from 100% recycled content.
As a major purchaser of packaging materials, HP uses its influence to encourage packaging vendors to develop materials that have a reduced environmental impact, such as molded cushions made from fungi, bamboo, and rice plants. This is important because our packaging strategy depends on a reliable and plentiful supply of responsibly sourced, recyclable, and recycled materials—the availability of sufficient amounts of such materials is currently a limitation given our product volume.
Under our broader Environmentally Preferable Paper Policy, we are working with packaging vendors to increase the use of recycled fiber content and sustainably harvested fiber in our paper-based packaging.