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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.