Hewlett-Packard steps up battery recycling program

DUBLIN – While other OEM manufacturers are scrambling to recall potentially faulty Sony laptop batteries, HP Canada is preparing to offer customers a new way to recycle them.

In about two weeks, HP will announce an alliance with the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Organization whereby batteries such as those used in laptops or other devices will be included under the vendor’s Planet Partners program. That means customers will be able to call HP to have their old batteries picked up for recycling at no charge. The Planet Partners program has been in place for HP’s printer cartridges since 1991.

“Right now there may be information on the battery that tells you how to recycle it, but about 99 per cent of them probably go in the garbage,” said Anthony Faga, category business manager at Mississauga, Ont.-based HP Canada. “We figured if they’re willing to recycle one component, like the toner cartridge, they might be willing to do the same with others.”

Faga discussed HP’s plans as part of a media tour of its Dublin Inkjet Manufacturing Organization (DIMO), where environmental factors have started to play a significant part of how the company develops its printer supplies products.

John Hayes, HP’s EMEA compliance manager, said HP’s four primary goals around not just making products more recyclable, but more energy efficient, and better use of materials. In some cases it’s also about making fewer parts: Hayes said that there are approximately 53 per cent fewer parts in HP’s monochrome LaserJet cartridges than there were in 1992. The rise of multi-function devices also promotes greater conservation of energy and manufacturing. HP also uses no PVCs and tries to use bio-plastics wherever possible.

HP sends ink-jet cartridges to a recycling facility in Germany, and its LaserJet cartridges to a facility in France. In Canada, they are first gathered at its Burlington, Ont., warehouse, and are usually organized into 300,000-tone bulk shipments, Faga said. Besides its own recycling facilities, HP has a much-publicized arrangement with Noranda to handle some of its products.

Right now about 15 per cent of HP’s recyclable products are being returned, but the process of getting customers to participate in Planet Partners hasn’t been easy, according to Hayes. Consumers get a postage-paid envelope in which to send the product back. For corporate customers, HP offers a cardboard box that can sit under a user’s desk that can be picked up for recycling once it has been filled up.

“My office never looked so crazy as when we were designing that box – I had cardboard all over the place,” said Hayes.

At an event in Toronto on corporate social responsibility last month, Electronic Products Stewardship Canada vice-president Jay Illingworth said some vendors may have an ulterior motive for stepping up their recycling efforts.

“It’s a huge recovery opportunity,” he said. “There’s a reason they’re all getting involved. It’s like an urban mine for them.”

Hayes disputed that notion and said that most of the metal or plastic that gets melted down go into non-tech products like hangers or roof tiles. “We lose money on it,” he said.

HP also went live this fall with a program called PurchaseEdge, in which users who take part in PlanetPartners can earn points that can be redeemed on the purchase of other HP products.

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