FEBRUARY 1, 2014: Microsoft corporate building in Santa Clara, California. Microsoft is a multinational corporation that develops, supports and sells computer software and services.

Microsoft pledges to eliminate all internal waste by 2030

Image credit: Ken Wolter/Dreamstime

Microsoft has pledged to bring its direct waste footprint to zero within a decade, as part of a new resources strategy which will boost the recyclability of its devices and see plastic packaging phased out entirely.

The company said its goal of achieving zero waste by 2030 covers its direct operations, products and packaging. It added that across these areas the firm will “reduce nearly as much waste as it generates” through reuse, repurposing and recycling initiatives, before offsetting the residual waste through investment in external circular economy initiatives.

“Zero waste is an ambitious goal, but minimising 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,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft.

Around 90 per cent of the materials that are currently wasted from Microsoft’s direct operations will be diverted from landfill and incineration within a decade, the company said in a statement. It said it will also install ‘Circular Centres’ – facilities which use machine learning to process decommissioned servers and hardware – at its data centres and its R&D and office campuses to achieve this. 

According to the firm, a trial of a ‘Circular Centre’ at Microsoft’s Amsterdam data centre has been a success, reducing downtime, increasing server and network part availability and lowering the costs and emissions associated with logistics. In the first instance, such facilities will be installed at Microsoft’s new data centres before being rolled out to older ones. 

Microsoft’s strategy for its products and packaging includes commitments to remove all plastic components from its packaging by 2025 and to ensure all remaining packaging is 100 per cent recyclable within the same timeframe. It also aims to ensure that all its Surface devices (touchscreen tablets and computers) are fully recyclable within this decade.

To help accelerate the creation of the infrastructure and business models needed to meet its targets, Microsoft said it is investing $30m (£22.9m) through Closed Loop Partners – a US-based investment firm that only finances organisations with products, services and systems which are proven to close the loop on resources. 

With this investment, the firm said that it will focus the bulk of the funding on packaging and e-waste, but a portion of the funding will be used to further resource management outside of Microsoft’s industries – closing the loop on food waste, for example.

“No one person or organisation can solve the global waste problem,” Smith said. “It will take all of us doing our part, including using better data to understand the problem and make smart waste policy decisions.”

This latest announcement from the tech company builds on its commitment to become ‘carbon-negative’ by 2030, which was announced earlier this year. This goal will see Microsoft reduce its emissions by more than 50 per cent across its entire business and supply chain by 2030 while investing to remove more carbon than it emits annually. 

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