Microsoft’s zero waste efforts have earned it the US Zero Waste Business Council’s highest certification level at its Redmond, Washington campus, making Microsoft the first technology company to achieve zero waste facility certification.
The gold-level certification recognizes the IT giant’s efforts to divert at least 90 percent of its waste from landfills.
In a blog post about the certification, Microsoft’s Susan Wagner, senior director of Puget Sound, writes that the 500-acre campus diverted its food, office and construction waste through employee-driven reuse, recycling and composting programs, along with community partnerships.
Microsoft has 33 cafés, 32 espresso cafés and more than 500 kitchenettes on its Redmond campus. “Yet of the 189 million pounds of food, packaging, and other dining-related items that went through these venues from July through December of 2015, a whopping 99.5 percent never made it to a landfill,” Wagner writes.
All of the food arrives in compostable or recyclable packaging. The campus grows some produce and makes meals to order to reduce food waste. Local recyclers convert thousands of gallons of frying oil each week into biodiesel. Tableware is all plant-based. Additionally, several of the company’s beverage vendors remove plastic packaging and 6-pack rings before delivery, and produce vendors deliver vegetables and fruits in reusable containers.
In addition to diverting its dining waste, employees separate materials like glass and plastic bottles, paper and cans for recycling, while Microsoft uses specific programs to recycle specialty waste streams such as electronics, batteries and wooden pallets.
The blog says recycling and composting bring Microsoft to the 87 percent mark in its zero waste goals.
Reuse programs that extend the life of office supplies, furnishings and computer equipment also play an important part in the company’s waste management strategy. Items such as surplus binders, power cords, laptops and whiteboards are made available to others around campus via an onsite/online “store.” In addition, furniture is repaired, reused whenever possible and often donated to nonprofits through a global furniture reuse program.
“In 2016 in Puget Sound, we recycled over 173,000 units and reused more than 95,000, avoiding nearly 3.5 million pounds of landfill waste,” Wagner writes.
The zero waste announcement follows a slew of environmental milestones Microsoft has achieved in recent weeks. Earlier this month the company, which achieved carbon neutrality in 2012, announced its new program to go “beyond carbon neutral” by investing in renewable energy and community climate projects as well as providing climate grants to accelerate energy and technology innovation.
Also this month Microsoft made its largest wind energy purchase to date, bringing its total wind energy investments in the US to more than 500 megawatts.