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U.S. Government provides guidance on data centre recycling

Written by Fri 11 Jun 2021

The Biden Administration requested a number of governmental studies, to be conducted over the first several months of the new presidency.

Commonly known as a ‘100-day review’, these research and reports cover a wide variety of topics from the state of education, to transportation, and more.

The 250-page report, “Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalizing American Manufacturing, and Fostering Broad-Based Growth,” offers a number of insights and recommendations that are applicable to data centre operations, including guidance on recycling materials.

The Department of Defense (DoD) completed a review of the supply chain for critical materials and minerals, noting that these materials are important outside of military applications. According to the study, new technologies from autonomous vehicles to renewable energy have increased consumption of critical materials, noting, “A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant. Since 2010, the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation has increased by 50 per cent as the share of renewables in new investment has risen.”

As these technologies become more common, the need for critical materials and minerals will grow. To support this increased demand, the DoD recommends that companies – such as data centres – commit to recycling used hardware to reclaim materials from copper wiring to rare earth magnets. Even lithium-ion batteries, which are currently being explored as a possibility to replace less environmentally-friendly diesel generators, could be subject to recycling requirements for the data centre.

To encourage recycling, the DoD recommends incentives, which will cover updating legacy processes to optimize opportunities for recycling critical materials as well as initiating new processes, conducting inspections, and providing certifications of compliance.

Recycling used equipment would be led by the federal government, leveraging their own extensive data centre presence to model the new recommendations.

“The Federal Government should also lead by example by establishing a government-wide recycling program to reclaim strategic and critical materials,” the report states.

“For example, the US Government operates more than 4,000 data centres, which represent a near-term opportunity to leverage Federally-funded R&D to recycle rare earth permanent magnets from hard disk drives.”

Written by Fri 11 Jun 2021


environmentally friendly recycling renewable energy
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