Dell's Bamboo Laptop Packaging Is Compostable, But Is That Good Enough?


Image via Dell

Late last year we let you know about Dell's new bamboo packaging for its netbooks. It was part of a push for the company to lighten the environmental footprint for its products. Now, the company has announced that not only is the packaging made from bamboo, but it's also officially compostable. Great green news, at least to some extent. But does it do much to answer the question of whether or not bamboo should be used for the packaging in the first place? The bamboo is used inside the box (the outer box is made from 25% post consumer material) instead of plastic cushions.

As Jacob noted in his post, "Bringing more Earth-friendly tactics to packaging is a complicated conundrum, and the bamboo approach raises some concerns. For starters, is it truly better to ship bamboo from China?... Further, the recyclability of Dell's new packaging appears to be dependent on a standard that hasn't yet been established; if bamboo fiber doesn't find a home in the American recycling system, it will make a lovely landfill stuffer."

The compostability of the packaging solves the latter issue - the company states it "will compost satisfactorily and biodegrade at a rate comparable to known compostable materials. The compost resulting from the packaging's degradation process is also of good quality and can sustain plant growth." In other words, you can toss it in your hot compost pile and it'll break down into soil for use in the garden (no mention of if it can go in your worm bin). That's certainly more than can be said for the plastic cushioning used in most computer packaging. It received American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-6400 certification.

However, there's the issue of sourcing. The packaging is made of FSC-certified bamboo forest in China. Is that more environmentally friendly than using recycled cardboard for the packaging, rather than harvesting and pulping bamboo? It is sturdy yet light - but can packaging with equivalent characteristics be made from a greener source, like recycled materials? Dell states it is the first an only tech company using bamboo for its packaging, so we'd love to see details from their life cycle analysis on this switch-up. The company is already extending it to more of its products, including a range of laptops, so we're hoping it proves to be more sustainable than minimalistic packaging made from 100% recycled cardboard or plastic, inside and out.

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More on Dell's Green Initiatives
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