On June 2, shortly before World Environment Day, HP Inc. held a one-day pop-up art exhibit called “Create What’s Next” in New York City to celebrate cartridge recycling and to inspire others, especially the next generation, to recycle. Actionable Intelligence attended the event and saw how artist and architect Germane Barnes created an interactive exhibit to show off HP’s recycling process and raise awareness of HP’s Planet Partners cartridge collection and recycling program.
HP launched its Planet Partners return and recycling program for HP LaserJet cartridges in 1991 and added HP inkjet cartridges to the program in 1997. HP’s closed-loop recycling program, announced in 2008, recycles the plastic from spent cartridges and other post-consumer sources to manufacture new HP cartridges. HP’s press release says over 1 billion cartridges have been recycled via Planet Partners to date, and the company reiterated a commitment it first expressed in April 2021 of reaching 75 percent circularity for products and packaging by 2030 (see “HP Celebrates Earth Day with Launch of ‘Renewed’ Instant Ink”). To support the effort, HP launched HP EvoCycle toner cartridges, which feature selected LaserJet cartridges made with reused components, closed-loop recycled plastics, and 100 percent new HP components (see “HP Launches Recycled HP EvoCycle Toner Cartridge Line for LaserJets in France”). First released in France, the line is now available in Germany and the United Kingdom (see “HP Now Offers EvoCycle Toner Cartridges in UK and Germany”).
More on the Exhibit
Why do an art exhibit focused on something as seemingly mundane as ink cartridge recycling? As HP puts it in its press release, climate change is a huge issue that can feel “overwhelming, leaving us wondering if our individual choices truly make a difference.” The firm added, “Yet, it is precisely in these small actions that our collective power lies.” Art connects and inspires people, and by highlighting HP’s inkjet cartridge recycling process in a visual and interactive “experiential journey,” the goal was to educate visitors about recycling and encourage them to take action in their own lives.
In a post on HP’s The Garage blog, Mr. Barnes cited the old adage that you never want to see how the sausage is made, and described this exhibit as the very opposite. He said, “Too often, companies talk about recycling without actually showing you what they’re doing. We want to pull back the curtain so you can really see how ink cartridge components are being recycled and reused and inspire people to recycle in their own daily lives.”
The exhibit began with a wall spelling out “Create What’s Next” where attendees could stick colorful cartridges into slots on the wall. The message, according to the artist, was that an empty cartridge is just the beginning of the recycling process.
From there, visitors traveled through three large cylinders—in yellow, cyan, and magenta, naturally—meant to actually bring you inside ink cartridges and walk visitors through various phases of the cartridge recycling process.
The first pod, which was yellow, featured a chandelier or what HP termed a “light sculpture” made of plastic and metal from inkjet cartridges. This represents the first step of dismantling the ink cartridge. Mr. Barnes said that creating this sculpture was perhaps the biggest challenge of the project because he wanted to be very precise in how he incorporated all the various cartridge parts.
Unlike the sunny, bright yellow cylinder, the cyan cylinder had a darker, moodier vibe. Here, Mr. Barnes displayed a faux terrazzo bench filled with the shredded plastic from HP ink cartridges. The display was meant to represent “the potential for used materials to be turned into something new.”
The bright magenta pod was all about fun and creativity. There, the ceiling was hung with colored sheets of paper representing the rainbow of colors HP printers can produce, and visitors were encouraged to take a sheet, print a message, and hang it on the wall. The walls of the magenta pod were hung with hoola hoops made of recycled plastics and filled with the pellets that come from the plastic inside cartridges.
In the post on HP’s The Garage blog, Mr. Barnes explained his vision involved interacting with the components of the exhibit. He said, “The biggest draw for me was that HP was okay with visitors engaging physically with the components, because a lot of times, projects are surrounded by ropes and guards and signs that say Do Not Touch. But when I pitched my idea, HP was thrilled. They said they wanted people to understand what these materials are, and they can’t do that just by staring. In a lot of the work that I do, you can sit in it, you can stand on it, you can play on it, you can swing on it. To me that’s way more interesting and memorable.”
Indeed, there were lots of visitors interacting—and playing—at the pop-up exhibit. Children from nearby schools visited to learn about recycling in general, cartridge recycling in particular, do a little hoola hoping, and take some selfies.
In keeping with the focus on HP’s recycling efforts, HP announced, “All the materials used in the exhibit have been incorporated with sustainability in mind and will be repurposed, reused or recycled. This includes all the plastic from the ink cartridges, which will be reintroduced into HP’s closed-loop cartridge recycling process through HP Planet Partners, demonstrating the material’s end-to-end circularity journey.”
Guillaume Gerardin, global head of HP print supplies at HP, was at the pop-up art event. He commented, “How we do things at HP is as important as what we do, and we believe the technology we create should serve humanity. We still have a long way to go as a company and an industry, however we believe events like this can inspire organizations and individuals to come together and act.”
HP declared in its announcement, “Through customer return shipments and drop-off bins at participating retail partners, HP Planet Partners gives each small cartridge a new life, and each of you a tangible way to make a meaningful impact on reducing plastic pollution.”
Actionable Intelligence found the exhibit to be a joyful, lighthearted way of getting visitors to consider a serious subject—climate change and the importance of recycling. It also highlighted HPs’ many years of expertise in recycling a variety of materials—everything from the plastics and metals in ink cartridges, to recycling fabric for use in laptop sleeves, to using spent coffee grounds in all-in-one desktops.
We suspect that the “Create What’s Next” exhibit was a hit with HP’s channel partners, especially those retailers and resellers that cater to younger end users. It behooves the company to get its next generation of customers to support recycling programs like Planet Partners and EvoCycle as well as any of HP’s future initiatives. We wouldn’t be surprised to see elements of this pop-up exhibit “pop up” elsewhere such as at other HP events. That, in itself, will be a form of reuse.