Google steps up circular economy ambitions with zero-waste data centre pledge

Multinational tech giant Google has made a commitment to achieve zero waste to landfill status across all of its global data centres, accelerating its efforts to transition to a closed-loop business model.

In two recent blog posts, Google confirmed its plans to move away from an “unstable” linear economy and divert all of its waste away from landfill “to a more sustainable pathway”, with no more than 10% of its waste going to an energy to waste facility.

Google’s vice president of global operations Jim Miller wrote: “Ultimately, this massive shift requires global businesses to lead the way to reduce our dependence on primary materials and fossil fuels. But the good news is, a shift like this isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for bottom lines.

“Becoming circular is something we hope all companies will commit to, together. It is certainly a challenge to change in the way we make things and use them, but it’s not impossible. And, in the end, it pays—in our own bottom lines, in our broader economy, and in the environment we all share together.”

Circular progress

Google have already achieved 100% zero waste to landfill status across six of its 14 data centres and is currently diverting 86% across its data operations globally. All of the company’s European and Asia-Pacific centres have achieved these goals including centres in Dublin, Hamina, and Singapore. The first of the centres to achieve zero-waste-to-landfill was the Mayes County site in Oklahoma.

In the blog post, Google cites a number key considerations that have helped it in achieving 100% landfill diversion across almost half of its data centres. These include finding solutions that not only divert waste, but provide an added benefit to the company; being aware that eliminating waste streams and opening new diversion paths are not necessary if you can find ways of extending the life of a product; and being prepared for changing and evolving waste streams.

The company notes that the final 10-20% of its waste diversion goal is often the hardest to achieve, with the blogs citing community partnerships and re-designing waste streams as viable solutions.

Last year, Google partnered with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as part of a pledge to accelerate its circular economy transition – joining the likes of Kingfisher, Phillips, Renault and Unilever as a global partner of the organisation.

Alex Baldwin

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