The Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative, hosted by the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace’s operating unit in Bonn, Germany, has entered into a new partnership with The Green Grid, a non-profit consortium of industry stakeholders that seeks to improve the resource efficiency of business information and communications technology (ICT).
As the ICT equipment that proliferated during the digital boom of the 1990s nears the end of its useful life, the challenge of managing this considerable volume of waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) in an environmentally, socially and economically sound manner becomes more pressing. The new partnership between the StEP Initiative and The Green Grid seeks to address this challenge by helping IT companies and organizations using ICT equipment to better understand, measure and manage the disposal of e-waste.
“There have always been two separate discussions in the world of ICT and data centre efficiency, with one side focused on energy emissions and the other concerned about material and waste recycling”, said John Pflueger, Dell representative and board member of The Green Grid. “With this new alliance, we are essentially merging the two camps for the first time, to offer leadership on e-waste concerns like the global community has never seen before. StEP offers deep understanding of the issues and can help guide our research around e-waste as we work to create new metrics that will help our members stay at the forefront in the area of ICT resource efficiency.”
Enthusiasm for the partnership goes both ways. UNU-ISP researcher Ruediger Kuehr, Executive Secretary of the StEP Initiative, explains that “The Green Grid and StEP have both contributed to improved efficiency on different sides of the IT equation. We’re very enthusiastic for these two important organizations to unite and bring the benefits of this collaboration to bear on the challenge of safely and efficiently managing end-of-life IT equipment”.
The first product of this partnership is a White Paper on Electronics Disposal Efficiency (EDE) titled “An IT Recycling Metric for Enterprises and Data Centres“. This white paper introduces EDE as a new metric for measuring organizations’ end-of-life management of outdated ICT equipment. StEP Initiative e-waste experts made important contributions to the development of the white paper, particularly in ensuring the appropriateness and accuracy of EDE as a metric for representing organizations’ e-waste performance.
The StEP Initiative seeks to lend its knowledge and expertise to “useful real-world application[s]”, said Kuehr, “so it was very important to us to provide our recommendations for this new metric”.
The Green Grid is now looking for organizations to pilot the EDE metric, and several companies have expressed interest. According to Pflueger, organizations participating in the pilot “will be helping us to work out what criteria and measurements need to be specified more rigorously… We hope to develop a number of case studies demonstrating e-waste best practice and provide a process for organizations to decide on their individual strategies”.
While the first stages of this partnership are yielding promising results, Kuehr cautions that there is still much work to be done. “We are only at the very beginning of the e-waste discussion – phase one, if you like. In creating the EDE metric, we have taken an important first step, but now the real work begins to help organizations identify and understand all their waste streams and find the best disposal pathways for them.”
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