Recycling dollar signs
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Microsoft announces new recycling, sustainability goals

The company also is investing $30 million in Closed Loop Partners.

Microsoft, Redmond, Washington, has announced it plans to achieve zero waste in its direct operations, products and packaging by 2030. To address its waste creation, Microsoft says it plans to reduce nearly as much waste as it generates while reusing, repurposing or recycling its solids, compost, electronics, construction and demolition and hazardous wastes.

According to a news release from Microsoft, the company aims to divert “at least 90 percent of the solid waste headed to landfills and incineration from [its] campuses and data centers” as well as “manufacture 100 percent recyclable Surface devices, use 100-percent-recyclable packaging (in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, countries) and achieve at a minimum 75 percent diversion of construction and demolition waste for all projects.”

The company says, “This work builds on our ongoing waste reduction efforts that started in 2008, which resulted in the zero-waste certifications of our Puget Sound Campus and our datacenters in Boydton, Virginia, and Dublin."

New circular centers

To meet the growing demand for Microsoft’s cloud services, the company says its data center footprint—and the 3 million servers and related hardware that power it—must expand. Servers have an average life span of five years and contribute to the world’s growing e-waste problem, Microsoft says. To address that challenge, Microsoft reports that it is building “first-of-their-kind Microsoft Circular Centers” to reuse and recycle servers and hardware. 

The company says the centers will be located on its new major data center campuses and regions.

“Using machine learning, we will process servers and hardware that are being decommissioned on-site,” the company states. “We’ll sort the pieces that can be reused and repurposed by us, our customers or sold. We will use our learnings about reuse, disassembly, reassembly and recycling with design and supply chain teams to help improve the sustainability of future generations of equipment.”  

Microsoft says its Microsoft Circular Center pilot in Amsterdam reduced downtime at the data center and increased the availability of server and network parts for the company’s internal reuse and buyback by its suppliers. It also reduced the cost of transporting and shipping servers and hardware to processing facilities, which lowered carbon emissions. 

“We expect the Microsoft Circular Centers to increase the reuse of our servers and components by up to 90 percent by 2025,” the company says.

Making investments

Microsoft has announced that it is investing $30 million in Closed Loop Partners’ funds to help accelerate the infrastructure, innovation and business models for supply chain digitization, e-scrap collection, food waste reduction and recycling industry products to build a more circular economy at scale. 

“We plan to use our learnings from our partnership [with Closed Loop Partners] to inform Microsoft’s circular economy initiatives in our devices and cloud value chains, specifically packaging, e-waste and waste diversion from landfills,” the company says. 

Eliminating single-use plastics

Microsoft reports that it also is looking to address the challenges of single-use plastics. The company is eliminating plastics from its business-to-business packaging for all Microsoft primary products and within its data centers by 2025. This will include plastic film, primary product packaging and its information technology (IT) asset packaging.