WE.3.E || Applied Digital Solutions – Connecting Green and Digital Transformations?

Andrews, Deborah; Bademci, Bahattin; Adibi, Naeem; Whitehead, Beth; Bienge, Katrin; Ye, Zhihui; Szablewski, Carolina; Fryer, Emma; Kerwin, Kristina; Schrijvers, Dieuwertje; O’Callaghan, Ellie; O’Callaghan, Ellie

Data centres house electrical and electronic data processing and storage equipment. The data centre industry has grown from zero in the late 1980s into a global service provider with about 8 million sites in 2021. This rapid sectoral growth presents many challenges to environmental, social and economic sustainability, including the generation of large quantities of WEEE because of short product life in service, under-developed recycling infrastructure, a limited market for second-life products and potential threat to the materials supply chain, specifically Critical Raw Materials. Most materials are mined, and few others are recycled using environmentally and socially damaging processes. Consequently, there is an urgent need to improve sectoral sustainability that includes a Circular Economy. However, most data centre operators’ focus has been the provision of an uninterrupted service and operational energy efficiency, which exacerbates the challenge. The CEDaCI project was set up to kick start the sectoral CE by raising awareness, advising and informing DCI actors by developing demonstration products and case studies. One major output – the Circular Data Centre Compass (CDCC) – a unique digital tool has also been developed to enable users to compare the environmental, social and economic impacts of different equipment. CDCC supports decision-making, whether to upgrade existing equipment, buy refurbished or new equipment, recycle using current processes, or use the CEDaCI process, which reclaims more CRM. The tool also includes a new Criticality Indicator to compare the CRM content in products and an Eco-design Evaluator to enable more Circular Products in line with the EU Circular Economic Action Plan. This paper discusses the CDCC development and features and its current and future importance to the digital economy.