Google Commits to “Design Waste Out”
Even as we save trees by going digital, landfills worldwide are filling with the discarded electronic waste that enables our paperless lives. But soon landfill-bound garbage trucks will bypass all of tech giant Google’s data centers. The company has announced new plans to achieve Zero Waste to Landfill across all of its global data center operations.
Many people think of the virtual nature of Google’s products, like Search, Gmail and apps, but each one is supported by data centers full of hardware that can break, wear out or become irrelevant as new technology is developed. Data centers themselves also generate waste by nature of being places of employment. Under Zero Waste to Landfill all of the waste leaving Google’s data centers will be diverted to more sustainable pathways, with not more than 10% of waste being sent to a waste-to-energy facility where it will be incinerated and the resulting energy captured.
Google has invested significantly in its upstream operations of designing and optimizing computing technology. Now the company will be looking to innovate downstream where technology waste is created. Currently Google operates with a landfill diversion rate of 86% across all of its data centers so the company is well on its way. Zero Waste to Landfill has been achieved at five data centers in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region as well as at the data center in Mayes County, Oklahoma.
Google identified three themes of success contributing to its high landfill diversion rate. The first is investing in innovations that do double duty, like increasing hardware performance while decreasing size and energy use. The second is to extend hardware life. Google designs and maintains all of its hardware in-house and repairing broken components using refurbished parts generates less waste. Parts that cannot be reused are sold, recycled or sent to waste-to-energy facilities. Third is to “expect the unexpected” which is explained as staying flexible and innovative with new waste products.
Google’s efforts to “design waste out” of its operations are in line with its commitment to implement circular economy practices. These efforts will make significant contributions to the company’s environmental sustainability – an increasing concern for consumers and potential employees – as well as to its bottom line.