Microsoft commits to zero waste operations by 2030

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Global technology giant, Microsoft has announced that it plans to stop trash that is generated through its operations by 2030. Single-use plastics will also be excluded from its packaging by 2025.

Through a set up called “circular centers,” the firm aims to reuse or recycle 90% of its waste on the site itself, instead of sending it to third-party recyclers. The servers used in Microsoft’s data centers are one of the big-ticket objects that would be recycled in-house.

Further, Microsoft will also eliminate waste from its own manufacturing process, although its suppliers are not expected to stick to the same zero-waste goal.

Data suggests that last year Microsoft ‘s largest office complexes sent 3,189 metric tons of waste to landfills and the latest pledge aims to bring that down to zero over the next decade. However, a much bigger issue than the trash coming from Microsoft offices is the e-waste from the products that Microsoft and other manufacturers make.

According to a study, in 2019 alone people worldwide threw out a staggering 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste. The number is projected only to increase. Microsoft’s latest announcement, though admirable, won’t make a major difference to all those tons of e-waste, because the company isn’t ready to hold itself responsible for what’s happening to the goods it sells.

Electronics companies have been facing pressure from environmental activists to design their products to last longer and to collect and recycle devices they make at the end of their useful lives.

Microsoft itself has been called out by many advocacy groups for pushing back against the proposed “right to repair” legislation that would necessitate companies to disclose information about their products and would allow consumers to fix it themselves or through third parties.

With the ‘right to repair’ law these multinationals can help keep the products in use — and keep them away from the landfills, says the advocates of the initiative.

In response to this claim, Microsoft said its renewed emphasis on waste management hasn’t changed its stance when it comes to the “right to repair.” As a mark of its support, it has engineered the Surface Laptop and Surface Pro X models to make it simpler to take apart and fix than its previous versions.

The zero waste pledge follows another big Microsoft environmental pledge announced at the beginning of the year – to become carbon negative by 2030. Earlier this year Microsoft had announced that it will eliminate more greenhouse gases from the environment than it generates by 2030.