Google's new complex under construction will follow circular economy principles. © Heatherwick Studios, Bjarke Ingels Group
Google's new complex under construction will follow circular economy principles. © Heatherwick Studios, Bjarke Ingels Group

Google announces circular economy goals across supply chain

Google has announced it wants to move to a circular economy in its supply chain as part of wider efforts to improve sustainability.

The Circular Google strategy aims to “maximise the reuse of finite resources across operations, products, and supply chains, and enable others to do the same”.

The technology company has begun applying circular economy principles through reuse of materials and waste management in five key areas within infrastructure, operations and products, including data servers, workplaces, consumer electronics and supporting consumers and suppliers to adopt similar principles.

The strategy focuses on three main actions, established and adapted from research with partner the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, including designing out waste and pollution by eliminating negative impacts from operations, construction and procurement; keeping products and materials in use by extending resource lifecycles; and promoting safe and healthy use, reuse and recycling of resources.

Google’s global data centres are on the path to becoming zero waste to landfill, with 91% of waste of operations diverted from landfill in 2017 through reuse and reselling initiatives. The company aims to build its first zero-waste campus in Mountain View, California, compliant with the Living Future Institute’s sustainable design framework, by 2021.

Other programmes include the development of supply chains that prioritise second hand materials by 2020, building 100% of electronic products with recycled materials from 2022 onwards, and adhering to a 35% reduction in single-use drinks by 2019 at the top 25 office sites, with an increase to a 50% reduction in 2020.

The resource and waste challenge is a “data problem”, said Google, and it highlighted that in order to reach a circular economy, materials across the global supply chain need to be “identified, tracked and managed”.

Beyond this, Google plans to use AI to implement further innovative ways to manage resources more efficiently, including machine-learning-assisted design processes, using data to reduce energy waste in data centres, building traceability and transparency in supply chains, and repairing components through 3D printing of spare parts.

“Data-driven circularity could accelerate innovation and growth, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the extraction of raw materials. All while generating environmental, economic, and community value. This insight that we can approach waste as data is one we intend to test,” said the strategy.

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