Microsoft and its recycled plastic mouse

October 05, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Microsoft and its recycled plastic mouse
The latest mouse from Microsoft uses 20 percent recycled ocean plastic in its outer shell for the first time. While Microsoft presents this as a step forward for the planet, is it just greenwashing?

Microsoft has worked with Saudi Arabian petrochemical company Sabic on the design of the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse with 20 percent recycled ocean pastic.

Ocean plastic is defined as plastic that has been certified by a third party as recovered from any ocean or ocean-feeding waterways or where it washed ashore from these locations. Ocean plastic differs from ocean-bound plastic in that ocean-bound plastic is recovered from ocean-feeding waterways, shorelines, and inland areas within a 50km radius of the ocean. The two recycled products play complementary roles in helping address the issue of ocean plastic waste.

Microsoft began this project with an objective of creating a plastic resin made from at least 10 percent recycled ocean plastic as part of its commitment to achieve zero waste by 2030.

Several rounds of reformulation exceeded Microsoft’s initial goal, using 20 percent recycled ocean plastic by weight in its external casing.

The new resin with recycled ocean plastic, called XENOY, can help reduce plastic waste in the ocean. A thousand tonnes of the 20 percent recycled material removes the equivalent of 24 million single-use 0.5 litre PET water bottles from the ocean, ocean-feeding waterways, or shorelines, which is a start.

“As part of our commitment to the reduction of waste, we set out to prove the viability of recycled ocean plastic as a material for use in consumer electronics. The Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse, with an outer shell made with 20 percent recycled ocean plastic, is the first consumer electronics product made with this XENOY resin. We are proud of the collaboration with Sabic that created this new resin from a challenging material that would otherwise remain in the ocean as waste. We hope that this first step on recycled ocean plastic will spur further action in our industry and are excited for customers to be able to experience the product,” said Donna Warton, VP Supply Chain and Sustainability at Microsoft.

But surely the design can use more recycled material.

“We are acutely aware of the challenges we all face globally to stop plastic becoming waste,” the team at Sabic told eeNews Europe. “With existing infrastructures, it is only currently possible to recover a fraction of the plastic which becomes waste. This is the start of a journey to create new business models and new supply chains and there are still many challenges to overcome before these solutions are feasible at scale. At SABIC, we are committed to developing long-term solutions and working with partners to recover ocean plastic and develop ethical, sustainable and scalable supply chains.

“We are proud that we can find technical solutions where we can include up to 20% Ocean Plastic in our formulation without compromising application functionality and physical properties. 20 percent is already quite an achievement for mechanical recycled Ocean Plastic,” they said.

“While [using 100 percent recycled material] is everybody’s dream, the reality is that there is a loss of physical properties of marine plastic to such an extent that it is not feasible   to use up to 100% without compromising the functionality and physical properties of the intended application (i.e. the mouse). The only way to go for 100 per cent Ocean Plastic recycling is chemical recycling, which brings us back to the virgin material again.”

"Any polymer, when recycled mechanically, will lose some of its original properties. The percentage of recycled material that can be used would depend on the application and its physical properties. In some low-end applications, such as baskets, bins etc., a high amount of mechanically recycled material can be used. However, for high end applications such as electronics applications (where properties such as ductility, flame retardance, chemical resistance, etc., are critical) then in our experience the percentage of recycled material that can be used is lower," they said.

“This project has also provided a blueprint to demonstrate to the broader industry sector that recycling and reusing valuable plastic resins that have been recovered from the ocean, ocean -feeding waterways or where they have been washed ashore from these locations, is achievable when value chain partners use their knowledge and expertise and work together.

“Sabic faced a unique challenge in overcoming the degradation of ocean plastic to create this innovative solution - due to exposure to sunlight and water, the plastic loses many of its original properties,” said Abdullah Al-Otaibi, ETP & Market Solution General Manager at Sabic. “Our collaboration with Microsoft represents an exciting development in recycling and reusing ocean plastic to create high-quality consumer electronic products that meet Microsoft’s high-performance expectations, while also playing a role in cleaning up the world’s oceans.”

www.sabic.com; www.microsoft.com

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