Resource Use

Microsoft sets zero waste by 2030 goal

This week, Microsoft announced its goal of achieving zero waste in its direct operations, products and packaging by 2030.

In a blog post, company president Brad Smith acknowledged Microsoft’s role in several global environmental issues, including e-waste and reliance on single-use plastics. He additionally raised concerns about the current lack of consistency in waste data, pledging to make investments in the digitization of waste data across the company.

Microsoft sets zero waste by 2030 goalBy 2030, Microsoft is aiming to divert at least 90 per cent of the solid waste headed to landfills and incinerators from its campuses and data centres, manufacture 100 per cent recyclable Surface devices, use 100 per cent recyclable packaging and achieve a minimum of 75 per cent diversion of construction and demolition waste for all projects.

Acknowledging the scale of the climate crisis and the ambitious nature of the company’s goals, Smith said: “No one person or organization can solve the global waste problem. It will take all of us doing our part, including using better data to understand the problem and make smart waste policy decisions.

“Zero waste is an ambitious goal, but minimizing our own waste footprint is essential to preserving the natural resources and reducing waste-associated carbon emissions to ensure our economies and societies around the world thrive for generations to come.”

To cope with increasing demand for its cloud services, the company will need to expand its datacentre footprint. According to the post, this process already requires three million servers and related hardware which have an average lifespan of five years, contributing to the global e-waste problem. Reconciling its role in the issue, Microsoft is pledging to establish new ‘Circular Centers’, which will use machine learning ‘to help improve the sustainability of future generations of equipment’. This is expected to increase the reuse of servers and components by up to 90 per cent by 2030.

The post outlines the scale and impact of single-use plastics, which make up 50 per cent of the 300 million metric tons of plastic produced each year. New projections from think tank The Pew Charitable Trusts find that, if governments, businesses and communities fail to take action, the amount of plastic pollution in the ocean could triple by 2040. In light of revelations such as these, and following calls for plastic-free packaging options from customers of major companies such as Amazon, Microsoft is pledging to eliminate single-use plastics from its packaging by 2025.

Microsoft will additionally be digitizing waste data across the company, in an effort to improve the standardization and quality of waste data. According to Smith, the company is developing an internal Power BI waste data dashboard, which will be used to show employees the environmental impact of their actions and outline how much waste they individually generate.

Through a $30-million investment in Closed Loop Partners’ funds, Microsoft is aiming to aid the acceleration of :infrastructure, innovation and business models for supply chain digitization, e-waste collection, food waste reduction, and recycling industry products to build a more circular economy at scale”. The post outlines the use of the company’s products in existing initiatives to tackle these issues, with retailers such as H&M and Target using Microsoft technologies ‘to create a more sustainable fashion economy’ through garment tracking.

To read the post in full, you can visit Microsoft’s blog.

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