Governments around the world are taking interest in data centers or, more specifically, what happens to data center equipment when it’s time to put it out to pasture. I use that term purposefully, as pastures are exactly where governments don’t want e-waste winding up, not to mention rivers, oceans, forests and the like.
Those of us in the U.S. may be familiar with the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), an on-line tool that helps users assess the environmental attributes of computers and monitors. The EU has a similar program, dubbed WEEELABEX.
The Green Grid is also on top of the issue and has come up with an electronics disposal efficiency (EDE) metric, a means for corporate consumers and electronics manufacturers to measure how well they responsibly manage e-waste. The goal, as stated in a TGG white paper on the topic, is to provide companies with an easy way to calculate and measure their success over time.
The EDE metric is intended to address four issues, the paper says:
- Provide a way for organizations to measure the responsible management (reuse, recycling, and disposal) of IT electronics and electrical equipment (EEE) that reaches end of current use (EOCU) or end of life (EOL)
- Provide guidance as to what responsible management entails.
- Ensure that entities are responsibly handling IT EEE management pathways.
- Maintain recycling and reuse standards.
The Green Grid’s EDE metric is a simple one. It is the percentage, based on unit or product weight, of decommissioned IT equipment that is disposed of through known responsible entities. It’s based on this equation:
EDE = Weight of responsibly disposed of IT EEE divided by the total weight of all decommissioned IT EEE that is at EOCU or EOL.
The white paper goes into detail on how to calculate the weight of your equipment but the point is to get folks thinking about the notion of “resource, not waste,” when they decommission equipment. In other words, your IT waste contains valuable, rare materials and should therefore be viewed as a significant resource, not mere waste.
To get that value, however, requires the equipment be handled properly, which is where the “responsibly disposed of” part comes in. That generally means delivering the material to a third party that’s been certified under a recycling standard. Numerous certification bodies around the globe provide such certifications, including WEEELABEX, RIOS, R2, eStewards and more. The certification is intended to ensure that the company properly handles the re-use or disposure of equipment parts and components, and that the downstream processing stream is audited.
The primary goal of the EDE metric is to give IT end users a means to measure their progress in ensuring that any IT equipment they decommission is handled responsibly, whether it is refurbished, reused, recycled or disposed of.
The task force that developed the EDE metric purposely did not make any recommendations with respect to disposal pathways because there’s significant debate in the industry on that issue. As the white paper says:
For example, if a particular piece of equipment is significantly less energy efficient than the equipment that could potentially replace it, is the right approach to reuse or recycle the original equipment? The task force believes that the industry will be addressing these issues over the next few years. Attempting to define a point of view with respect to preferred disposal pathways may hinder development and adoption of the initial goal of the EDE metric: to incent responsible disposal of EOCU and EOL IT EEE, regardless of disposal path chosen.
To learn more about EDE, check out TGG white paper no. 53, “Electronics Disposal Efficiency (EDE): An IT Recycling Metric for Enterprises and Data Centers.” It would behoove you to learn more about the issue and start adopting the EDE because you can bet standards and regulation in this area are not far away. More on that in my next post.