Microsoft wants to operate with 'zero waste' by 2030

It will set up 'Circular Centers' to reuse and recycle its servers.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Microsoft has set some big environmentally focused goals for itself, and it plans to achieve them over the next 10 years. In addition to reaching carbon negative status by 2030, the tech giant has revealed that it also aims to have zero waste operations and packaging within the same year. It has listed the steps it intends to take to get there, including the construction of “Circular Centers” at its data centers providing Azure and Microsoft 365 services. The facilities will give Microsoft a way to sort and reuse or recycle electronic equipment on site instead of sending them to third-party recyclers.

Servers in data centers only have a five-year lifespan and could lead to a lot of electronic waste. Microsoft piloted a Circular Center in Amsterdam, and based on that testing period, it expects the facilities to increase the reuse of its servers and components by up to 90 percent come 2025. It will set up the recycling facilities in its new major data center campuses first before adding them to existing ones.

As The Verge notes, though, this measure will only address the waste coming out of Microsoft’s offices — the waste its products generate is a much bigger problem. Critics have been urging Microsoft and other tech giants to design their products for longer use and to collect the devices they sell for reuse and recycling. Microsoft also received flak for opposing “right to repair” laws that would compel tech companies to make their products easier and cheaper to repair.

“We are committed to increasing the repairability of our products and providing consumers with access to convenient, effective and safe repair services. Proposed legislation will undermine innovation, competition and consumer protections, including exposure to safety, security and privacy risks,” a Microsoft spokesperson explained to GeekWire in an email.

Aside from building Circular Centers, Microsoft has pledged to stop using single-use plastics for the packaging of all its primary products and IT assets by 2025. By doing so, it hopes to stop contributing to our growing plastic waste problem. “Approximately 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced ever year, 50 percent of which is used one time. And, half of this plastic waste comes from packaging,” it wrote in it announcement.

The company has promised to improve its efforts to digitize waste data, as well, so it can better understand the impact of its operational decisions and more accurately assess its progress. Finally, it’s making a $30 million investment with Closed Loop Partners, a venture capital firm known for investing in sustainable consumer goods and advanced recycling technologies.

Microsoft ended its post with an admission that zero waste is a lofty goal, but it’s also a necessary one to have:

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

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