3 Ways to Manage E-Waste from Data Centers cover

3 Ways to Manage E-Waste from Data Centers

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On: May 11, 2022 Comments: 0
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To keep the world spinning and its inhabitants connected, data centers deliver tremendous value … but also produce copious amounts of electronic waste. Every year, they collectively produce upwards of two million tons – about 4% of all of humanity’s e-waste. This digital detritus has become a massive environmental problem.

The problem stems from the concentrated use of electronics and electrical equipment in data centers – including computers, networking equipment, and extensive cooling hardware. The choice of which cooling technology to deploy greatly affects the amount of e-waste produced.

Liquid immersion cooling, like GRC’s, drastically reduces e-waste compared to traditional cooling methods. Its promise of more sustainable operations is steadily popularizing it as an essential element of smart management.

At the end of the day, data centers have a moral and social duty to manage their e-waste. Of course, that’s easier said than done. As always, GRC has your back.

Here are three ways to reduce your data center's carbon footprint while raising the bottom line: use liquid immersion cooling, establish an IT Asset Disposal Program, and/or design and build data centers with sustainability in mind.


1: Use Liquid Immersion Cooling

Conventional air cooling can account for half of a data center’s electricity. Needless to say, this method exerts extraordinary pressure on the electrical infrastructure. Liquid immersion cooling (LIC) requires significantly less electricity, therefore decreasing the need to purchase and discard electrical equipment – therefore decreasing e-waste!

LIC expels less e-waste than even alternative immersion cooling approaches, like rear door heat exchangers (RDHx) or cold plates that go directly on the chip.

So, why does liquid immersion win? LIC efficiently submerges the servers in a system with few moving parts. By contrast, air cooling needs large electrical units, while alternative liquid cooling systems require substantial plastic plumbing to circulate the fluids, All of this eventually becomes e-waste.

The immersion cooling technology also submerges electronics in a protective bath, eliminating the need for fans while blocking airborne contaminants. Therefore, parts aren’t subjected to corrosion or other causes of failure (further decreasing e-waste!).

With high-performance computing, cryptocurrencies, and growing demands in workloads, data centers need liquid immersion cooling to reduce the amount of IT equipment they burn through – now more than ever. Bitcoin alone produces as much e-waste as the Netherlands!

Advanced cooling of data centers also has indirect benefits in managing electronic and electric junk. Simply put, it's more cost-effective. This frees up your budget to invest in longer-lasting parts, maintenance, and other sustainable initiatives to prevent e-waste.

2: Establish an IT Asset Disposal Program

Managing e-waste can and should also be done through organizational policies, in addition to upgraded cooling systems. A data center should have policies to repurpose older hardware when feasible and recycle it when it’s not. These mechanisms fit into the larger sustainability goals of an IT Asset Disposal program.

A program like this aids both the data center and its clients! For example, data centers can offer information and assistance to customers with expiring hosted equipment. A business that hosts thousands of servers will inherently prevent massive amounts of e-waste if done so with sustainability in mind.

When it comes to the proper disposal of electronic equipment, there are relevant standards, such as ISO 14001 and Responsible Recycling Practices. A data center should strive to surpass these standards. When disposing of hardware, the data center should partner with a certified recycling organization. Over a third of global data center operators rely on a certified recycling partner.

Another great way to manage e-waste is to reuse and recycle as much equipment as possible. This includes IT gear, like servers, and non-IT infrastructure, such as electrical equipment. In conjunction with the selection of efficient systems – including liquid immersion cooling that requires less infrastructure – the IT Asset Disposal Program will minimize e-waste.

3: Design and Build with Sustainability in Mind

Managing e-waste begins with a sustainability-oriented mentality. From individual parts to servers and rack levels to the entire data center, consider how to make each element less wasteful. You can decrease waste by selecting components that have long lifespans and are easy to process at their natural end-of-life cycle.

Using recycled materials and making equipment easy to repair can also decrease the environmental toll. These actions reduce the frequency a data center needs to discard hazardous electrical or electronic goods.

For example, Facebook makes components easy to disassemble, which simplifies the extraction of parts or resources. Facebook also replaced lead-acid batteries with lithium-ion batteries, which have higher energy density and last longer, to prevent e-waste. Precise monitoring further enables less need for maintenance and waste.

Design and build the data center with sustainability at the forefront, rather than having to drastically course-correct down the line. This foresight will keep more resources circulating within the digital sphere rather than going to waste. Building with sustainability in mind and the IT Asset Disposal Program are deeply connected, as they are both plans to yield the least possible waste. They also complement liquid immersion cooling, a sustainable technology that reduces wear on parts and electrical infrastructure as a preventative measure, rather than a reactionary one.


Cut Out E-Waste With GRC

GRC’s unique liquid immersion cooling systems keep electronics functional without destroying the planet. This energy-efficient cooling places less strain on IT and electrical infrastructure. When you switch, you’ll see longer-lasting, faster servers at a lower cost!

In conjunction with an IT Asset Disposal Program and a sustainable design, this revolutionary cooling technology makes it easy to manage e-waste. You place your servers in a safe liquid coolant, which protects your hardware while eliminating a sizable part of your electricity use. Hardware then does what it should: work for you, rather than go to waste.

Data centers cutting out e-waste isn’t the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do. These institutions are responsible for a huge e-waste stream and have a moral obligation to protect the people that keep them in business. Think globally, act locally. Go green today with tomorrow’s technology. Contact GRC now!