Microsoft talks trash: Tech giant aims for zero waste by 2030 in latest environmental initiative

A Microsoft Azure data center. (Microsoft Photo) Microsoft is rolling out details of its third sustainability focus area : waste reduction. The Redmond, Wash.-based cloud and software behemoth announced Tuesday that it’s setting a goal of reaching zero waste by 2030 for its direct waste production.
The initiative includes efforts on multiple fronts:

Building “circular centers” for data centers that provide Azure and Microsoft 365 cloud services. The circular centers will facilitate sorting, reuse and recycling of electronic equipment, keeping it onsite at server farms.
A $30 million investment with Closed Loop Partners , a firm that funds research and companies working on waste reduction through greener design, manufacturing and recycling of goods.
Eliminating single use plastics in Microsoft packaging within 5 years; making Surface devices recyclable by 2030.
Continuing efforts to digitize information on the materials that go into products to track their life cycle and aid with reuse and recycling.

“We hope that what were doing here inspires the broader sector in the same way that our carbon negative impact has,” said Lucas Joppa , Microsoft chief environmental officer, in an interview. “The world needs to achieve a net zero carbon economy by 2050. To do that everybody’s got to do their part. Microsoft and our peers are capable of doing much more.”
Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer. (Microsoft Photo) For the circular centers initiative, Microsoft built a pilot project in Amsterdam to test the idea and is now constructing a facility in Boydton, Va. Servers in data centers have a 5-year average lifespan, Joppa said, and due to security issues, it can be challenging to repurpose equipment outside of a facility. With the circular design, engineers get around that issue by reusing the materials onsite or within other company facilities.
“Those data centers house an incredible amount of electronics, and what we are putting in place, moving forward, is a first-of-its-kind approach in the industry, to site these new circular centers,” Joppa said.
The zero waste objectives, for which the company did not provide a price tag, are part of a bigger sustainability program that is being rolled.
In January, Microsoft made the bold pledge to become climate negative within a decade and launched a $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund to support innovation in carbon reduction and removal. In April the company announced measures supporting global biodiversity and the creation of a “Planetary Computer” to collect, analyze and share data on wild places and the creatures that live there.
The company has yet to share information on its fourth sustainability focus, which is water.

Rhys Roth , executive director for the non-profit Center for Sustainable Infrastructure , applauded the tech giant’s focus on waste and how it...