Seagate reduces carbon footprint with refurbished storage drives

Daniel Sims

Posts: 1,078   +39
Why it matters: Seagate's latest sustainability report contains a lot of good news about its efforts to expand its use of renewable energy and reach carbon neutrality. A significant point, however, is the company's push alongside other groups to reuse old storage drives. Recent studies suggest refurbishing devices, even less energy-efficient ones, is more environmentally friendly than recycling them.

Seagate claims that between June 2021 and June 2022, its refurbishment program restored 1.16 million hard drives and solid-state drives for safe reuse. The effort could help reverse the wasteful trend of shredding old drives.

A report from last fall stated that many large tech companies upgrade their digital storage every few years, destroying and recycling millions of perfectly usable drives. The main reason is that they fear the legal ramifications of accidentally reselling storage without properly wiping it, thus exposing user data and damaging consumer trust.

The practice isn't as environmentally friendly as it initially sounds. Recycling breaks down drives and reuses the raw materials to manufacture new devices. The replacement drives are usually more energy-efficient. However, manufacturing new storage contributes far more to emissions than reusing old storage and could expand the use of conflict materials like rare-earth metals.

Seagate isn't alone in its endeavor to preserve drives. The company is a founding member of the Circular Drive Initiative (CDI), a group launched late last year intending to minimize e-waste by promoting storage reuse. Other members of CDI include Western Digital, Micron, Chia, McDonough Innovation, Smart Modular Technologies, Reconext, Solidigm, and Horizon Technology. The Initiative is working on a certification system to approve second-hand and third-hand drives.

Seagate's refurbishment program eliminated an estimated 540 metric tons of e-waste. Although it prefers to reuse drives, the company also launched an external HDD made from 30 percent recycled materials and 100 percent recycled packaging.

Energy use is also a big part of Seagate's report. Four of its seven global manufacturing sites now run entirely on renewable energy from solar panels and contracts that indirectly point to green power sources. The reliability of those contracts is unclear, but Seagate's numbers put it more than halfway toward its 2030 goal of using 100 percent renewable energy. The company plans to be carbon neutral by 2040 but doesn't indicate whether it will get there through carbon offsets (which aren't always trustworthy) or other means.

Check out the full report on Seagate's website for details on saved megawatt hours, diverted waste, reduced emissions, diversity spending, and other statistics.

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Posts: 5,567   +7,735
It only reduces waste until we can no longer postpone decommissioning them. All drives created will eventually fail or be decommissioned. We are only delaying the inevitable


Posts: 104   +212
If anything, these drives might actually be more reliable than Seagate's freshly made drives. What with having been tested and surviving their first year and all.


Posts: 2,279   +1,248
Some time ago, I started noticing these refurbished enterprise drives on Amazon.
Many of them included 3 year warranty unlike new consumer drives directly from Seagate and WD having only 1y warranty.
I am guessing these refurbished drives undoubtedly were of much better quality and reliability.
I 5 years later I still use these drives although I installed bigger drives to my NAS.
Refurbished drives are ok, one year warranty on such crucial part of PC--not so much.
I remember well when HDD quality just dipped. I had few broken one lying waiting to be exposed all the time. Also, I think I replaced most HDDs in my family's laptops.


Posts: 357   +538
If anything, these drives might actually be more reliable than Seagate's freshly made drives. What with having been tested and surviving their first year and all.
Yeh, the bathtub failure statistics...where a lot of drives fail in the first year or two because of manufacturing flaws. So drives that make it after a year or two are the ones without manufacturing defects and then will last many years of use before finally dying due to wear and tear.


Posts: 295   +137
Maybe they should spend their time and money on improving their drives. Highest failure rates in the business.


Posts: 1,355   +392
I have a 2TB WD Blue drive that had been used for recording videos in DVR for few years. drive has over 51,000 hours runtime but somehow it still works and sentinel check shows perfect result. drive is still kicking strong in my desktop now.

I don't know how good Seagate refurbished drive is, but if they refurbished drives with only say 15,000 hours on them and offer buyer 3 years (or 25,000 hours) warranty it could still make sense. but that's only if the drive is really rated for 50,000 hours. somehow with seagate I kinda doubt that.

I personally wouldn't risk it. I will only buy new HDD that comes with minimum of 2y warranty.