Amid humming machinery, beeping forklifts, and the steady work of employees in safety gear, spent HP ink cartridges enter their afterlife — a very productive one. On a typical day at HP’s recycling plant in La Vergne, Tennessee, about half an hour outside of Nashville, workers in orange vests and steel-toed shoes load cartridges onto conveyor belts. Others remove extraneous materials from the line of cartridges gliding by, ensuring they are disassembled in a way that maximizes the reuse of their components.
As the employees work, they are also helping to usher in a transformation in the printing industry — away from sending printers and cartridges to landfills, and instead integrating them into a circular economy that reuses materials again and again.
HP is on the cusp of the transformation, with an ambitious goal for all of its personal systems and print products to contain at least 30% recycled plastic by 2025. With its current portfolio at 7%, HP is taking steps to push the limits of technical innovation in recycling.
“The way we are going to get there is to figure out how we can recapture all the material we are putting out into the world and reuse every single bit of it,” says Ellen Jackowski, global head of sustainability strategy and innovation at HP. At HP’s recent Innovation for Sustainable Impact Summit in Nashville, Jackowski announced the release of the HP Tango Terra, which hits the 30% recycled target and uses cartridges that contain up to 73% recycled materials.
HP’s recycling effort also includes about 400 employees who work at the La Vergne facility’s two buildings, which are located across the street from each other and managed by Sims Recycling Solutions. One plant processes cartridges, and the other processes hardware, including printers and laptops. One of those employees, Tania Damaso, has worked at the recycling facility for about a year. She says that staff meetings always include information about recycling, and she likes that her job keeps plastic out of the environment.
“This is the Earth,” she says. “We have to take care of it.”