More than 50 Cornellians presented at SXSW 2019, the festival of ideas and innovation in Austin, Texas. Here, Oliver Campbell ’82, MEng ’84, tells us more about his SXSW talk on meeting environmental challenges with new materials and sustainable ‘circular systems.’

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, the saying goes. In this spirit, Cornell engineering alumnus Oliver Campbell ’82, MEng ’84 is finding innovative ways of using the world’s refuse and pollutants to create circular systems. These systems will reuse waste products and other materials in new ways.

As director of procurement and packaging engineering with Dell Technologies, Campbell and his team work on creating new materials and designing circular systems to meet some of the world’s major environmental challenges. For example:

  • Dell’s boxes in India are printed with ink made from pollution captured from diesel generators.
  • The company upcycles gold from e-waste into new motherboards.
  • Some of Dell’s laptops ship in packaging made with recovered ocean-bound plastics.

“My vision is how to use sustainability innovation to make it easier for Dell, our customers, and our communities to be green,” he says. “And to do so at cost parity or, better yet, lower cost.”

Oliver Campbell '82, MEng '84
Oliver Campbell ’82, MEng ’84

Campbell shared these ideas at SXSW during a panel discussion, “Circular Solutions for the Future: Meet the Mad Scientists.”

Cornell contributed directly to this work, he says—even before he enrolled as a student. The son of Joseph K. Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Oliver Campbell grew up thinking about circular methodologies and helping people.

Adding to this foundation, his own studies gave him an edge. “My Cornell education taught me to not be afraid of asking questions,” he says, “and it provided a way to integrate environmental and business challenges.”