Earlier this year, we missed two news items from chip giant Intel. Taken alone, they may sound like small news items, and they also sound a lot like what ever large corporation is supposed to say these days. Everyone seems to be committing to some future target, but whether they’re going to walk the walk is still an open question.
But, these two announcements fit together to be something bigger than that.
Intel’s Circular Economy Strategy
As part of Intel’s sustainability plan, discovering new and inspiring methods to reuse, recover, and upcycle is an essential component. Embracing this “circular economy” model allows for items and resources to remain in use for the longest possible time before eventually being repurposed. Implementing such a circular system not only minimizes Intel’s operational footprints but also generates ample value back into the company. Last year, Intel’s circularity efforts generated over $100 million in revenue and greater than a billion dollars in cost avoidance. Moreover, it was able to entirely avoid or recycle/reuse 130 thousand metric tons of industrial waste. These exceptional results demonstrate the power of circular economy initiatives and their ability to create immense commercial value while promoting sustainability.
“Keeping waste out of landfills is a critical priority for reducing our operational footprint as we deliver the technologies that power our digital world,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, Intel executive vice president, chief global operations officer and general manager of Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Operations. “Intel’s circular economy practices are a win-win – not only are they better for the environment but they also reduce our operational costs. These efforts benefit our business, customers, stakeholders and the communities in which we operate.”
Intel is dedicated to achieving its 2030 targets of zero waste and circular economy strategies for 60% of manufacturing waste streams by searching throughout the company for ways to repurpose materials. A considerable amount of Intel’s trash comes from construction and production processes, so the company is striving forward with an aim to upcycle these elements instead.
To reach its sustainability goals, Intel collaborated with vendors to separate the primary solvents used in its wafer fabrication etch process from other solvents. This initiative led to more than 8,000 metric tons of solvent being recovered and sold back through a third-party marketplace in 2021. As it looks forward, Intel is continuing these efforts by creating collection systems specifically for this solvent at new fabs which will make it easier for them to achieve full circularity.
By developing new packaging guidelines and redesigning their boxes with latch clasps instead of sealing tape, Intel has dramatically reduced its annual demand for packaging materials by over 180 metric tons. This ensures that products are securely transferred between each location while also lowering the amount of waste generated from packaging.
In 2021, Intel and its suppliers maintained a commitment to metal reuse by repurposing 1,700 metric tons of material containing precious metals from 40 countries. These efforts reduce e-waste and demonstrate the power that arises when value chain partners come together.
Product design is also a key element to achieving circularity.
With its endeavor to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, Intel has declared its commitment in helping customers reduce carbon levels through novel platform designs. These plans incorporate circuit boards that make recycling simpler and more efficient, hence reducing electronic waste significantly.
Intel NUCs have been crafted with upgradability and repairability in mind, and the team has delivered an impressive 91% recovery rate this year. These mini-PCs also employ recycled plastic materials from post-consumer sources up to 75%, which can be a precarious endeavor as stability diminishes when it is reused. Intel actively monitors these levels of plastics so that customers can still trust their PCs through shock, vibration, or other extreme conditions.
“Sustainability can’t be an add-on; it needs to be factored in from the beginning,” says Jennifer Huffstetler, Intel’s chief product sustainability officer “By harnessing Intel’s prowess as an integrated design manufacturer, we can accelerate adoption and scale availability of more sustainable silicon features, products and solutions that help reduce climate impact. We are uniquely positioned to partner with and help our customers achieve their sustainability goals.”
Finally, the company is working on making products that last longer instead of break early so Intel can sell you another chip. The goal is to increase how many times a computing product can be reused for subsequent users over time, leading to chips that last generations. New chips will replace old chips, but the old chips need to find new jobs to minimize e-waste.
Intel Also Committed To Cutting Carbon
Intel is taking action to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, both direct and indirect. Not only does Intel plan to produce more sustainable technology solutions, but it also seeks to inspire the development of innovative sustainability measures through partnerships with suppliers and empowerment of customers. As one of the world’s top semiconductor design and manufacturing companies, Intel has an opportunity — as well as a responsibility — to lead global efforts in reducing GHG emissions.
Intel is committed to meeting the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and ensuring its products are as energy efficient and environment friendly as possible. To achieve this, Intel has set specific objectives for itself while also collaborating with other tech companies in order to lower the global carbon footprint of technology altogether.
Walking The Walk
Taken together, the thing that impressed me the most about this information is that Intel showed ways that it is already helping reduce its overall environmental footprint. It’s easy to say “We pinky promise to do something good by 2040.” but it’s harder to honestly say, “This is a problem we’re already working on, and here’s exactly what we’re doing to make it happen.”
I’m glad to see that Intel wants us to know that it is in that latter camp. As big of a company as it is, and as many things as we count on it for, it’s good to know that we’re moving in the right direction as we rely on it.
Featured image provided by Intel