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Google runs data centers without waste in Singapore and Taiwan

27 Sep 2016

Did you know that Singapore is projected to run out of landfill space by 2035? According to the Singaporean government, every year 200,000 tons of solid waste and ash are received at the Semakau landfill. That’s a lot of trash – equivalent to the weight of 18 Eiffel towers, 25,000 elephants or 100,000 houses. Today, we’re excited to announce that none of that waste comes directly from our data center here in Singapore (or, to landfills in Taiwan, from our data center there). That’s because both our Singapore and Taiwan data centers have reached a 100% landfill diversion rate, in line with a global commitment we’ve made to achieve “zero waste to landfill” for our data centers globally. This zero waste to landfill effort is part of a broader goal we have at Google to weavecircular economy principles into everything we do. That means instead of using raw resources (timber and ore, for example) to create new products, we keep materials in circulation for multiple uses, whether they are maintained, reused, refurbished, or recycled. So how do we accomplish this at our data centers here in Asia, where our servers that help millions of people across the region Search, keep in touch over Gmail and stream millions of hours of YouTube a day need constant upgrading and maintenance? To start, before we buy any new equipment or materials, we look for ways to reuse what we already have. Last year, more than half of the components we used for machine upgrades were from refurbished inventory. With the remaining equipment, we resold most into secondary markets for reuse by other organizations, and we recycled a small percentage of un-reusable hardware. That covers the machines, but what about everything else? To reduce daily waste, we encourage Googlers to be environmentally conscious. We make recycling very easy by placing waste sorting bins like the below throughout the facilities in strategic locations.

For the small amount of waste that is still produced locally, we use our own trash disposal systems like this trash compactor at our facility in Singapore:

In addition to our two facilities in Asia, four of our other data centers in Europe and the U.S. -- nearly half -- have achieved 100% landfill diversion of all waste to date. And we’re committed to achieving zero waste at the rest of our data centers soon. As my colleague Jim Miller observed, it’s just the kind of challenge that excites us.

Article by Randy First, director of Hardware Operations for Google Asia Pacific

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