August 4, 2020
As part of its long-term sustainability goals, Microsoft has announced plans to drastically reduce the amount of waste it produces and eliminate single-use plastics in its packaging by 2025.
"The plastics problem is just part of a broader waste problem," Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer for Microsoft, told Cheddar. "The world creates too much waste. Microsoft creates too much waste, and we need to fix that."
This is the third major announcement in 2020 from the tech giant detailing its sustainability plan. In January, Microsoft announced its goal to become carbon negative by 2030. Then in July, it released the details of that plan, which includes switching its data centers to renewable energy, issuing a request for proposals for carbon removal solutions, and developing a de-carbonization playbook that it plans to share with other firms to help catalyze the corporate sector.
While waste reduction is just one component of Microsoft's efforts to fight climate change, Joppa stressed that it's an important one.
"Last year, 11 billion tons of waste was sent to the landfill," he said. "We went from, in 1950, producing one and a half million tons of plastics to last year producing 300 million tons of plastic as a society, and over half of that was intended for single-use."
For Microsoft consumers, this initiative means more of their tech purchases will be recyclable, from the packaging that products arrive in, to the devices themselves once they've outlived their use.
"We want the packaging itself to have zero single-use plastic," Joppa said. "We also want the device that's hopefully coming in that package to be recyclable as well."
Microsoft is also building what it calls "Circular Centers" to control the flow of waste out of its 160 data centers across the globe. These centers will sort and decommission parts used for servers, which currently last on average about five years, and then recycle or repurpose them.
In the process, the company hopes to learn more about its products and work to extend their life cycle and reduce e-waste.
Microsoft has already tested this concept in Amsterdam and shown that it increases the availability of server and network parts for reuse or buy-back from suppliers. The goal is to increase the reuse of components by up to 90 percent by 2025.
"What we're really looking to do is do everything we possibly can to divert waste from landfills," Joppa said.