The Data Centre Industry (DCI) produces a significant amount of electronic waste (eWaste/ WEEE) that is not being properly managed.
According to a report by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), the DCI generated 2.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020. This is equivalent to the emissions generated by over half a million cars on the road for a year.
CEDaCI (Circular Economy for the Data Centre Industry) is an initiative creating a circular economy for the DCI by involving all stakeholders in the DCI life cycle stages, ensuring design, maintenance, and disposal of IT equipment are more sustainable whilst still supporting the industry's growth.
A multi-disciplinary network has been established to connect stakeholders and experts from all stages and sub-sectors related to the DCI. Network membership provides access to resources such as case studies, business models, and a Decision-Making Tool (Circular Data Centre Compass) to support sustainable business development and growth. Members can also connect with project partners and other network members to identify potential business opportunities.
Even if you don’t work in the Data Centre Industry your business will engage with a supply chain. As these lessons can be hugely beneficial to all businesses, we thought we’d offer a sneak peek behind the information curtain at some useful one-page resources CEDaCI have produced.
We’ve captured the BIG takeaways for you too!
The CEDaCI project team proposes emphasising the standardisation of all mechanical features across future server design. The current lack of design consistency does not allow for maximum reuse of the equipment and encourages excessive manufacturing.
- Only a small number of parts can be easily repaired. Most parts contain a number of subassemblies and are not designed for repair
- Design differs considerably between brands, models, and generations and the majority of parts cannot be interchanged between those
Although building a circular economy for the data centre industry relies on being able to recover 100% of the materials in IT hardware for eventual reuse this isn’t currently viable. This means that extending product life is the best solution in the short term to reduce pressure on the mined sources.
- There is no degradation in performance on new and refurbished product of the same make and model
- A lot of barriers to reuse are contractual and systematic
- There is still an erroneous assumption that new equipment is automatically twice as efficient as the last generation
By encouraging the ability for materials to be reintegrated into the value chain we can
- Avoid raw material production and reduce the environmental impacts
- Double the collection of WEEE, and subsequent processing and recycling in the EU and limit stockpiling of WEEE overseas
- Improve the recovery of CRM with small-scale bespoke recycling technologies for DCI hardware
Recycling alone though is not enough! It needs to be optimised to allow the recovery of Critical Raw Materials (CRM) instead of dissipating them as waste.
Social responsibility should be a regular business activity across industries. There is an upcoming European directive on corporate sustainability due diligence that will foster sustainable business practices. These will respect human rights inside and outside Europe.
- Primary production of IT hardware goes along with violating basic human rights, especially in the mining sector
- Repairability, remanufacturing and extended product lifetime decreases demand for dangerous manual labour
By engaging in circular supply chains all industries can play an important role in reducing the social harm done in primary production and current informal recycling.
Supply chain management can be difficult to monitor and present significant challenges for businesses trying to do the right thing, at a time when the right thing often seems expensive or out of reach.
We have several programmes that can support your sustainability! Please attend the CEDaCI SME training sessions to learn more about the circularity solutions that the project has developed.