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Dell shines the spotlight on the potential of a circular economy

In recent years, technology has been responsible for a number of innovative shifts. Virtualization, for example, enabled enterprises and service providers to make the most of their available computing resources while eliminating unnecessary hardware. Technology has been a linchpin for a range of other recycling and green efforts, supporting strategies to reduce energy usage and shrink carbon footprints.

Now, it seems that tech and sustainability go hand in hand, and for good reason. Dell is looking to take this a step further with its focus on the circular economy and designing for the environment.

Starting at the beginning: What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is based on the elimination of waste, and the continual reuse of available materials.

“The technology industry is uniquely positioned to help foster this change.”

“A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles,” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation explained.

Dell expanded on this, noting that all materials are valuable within this type of economy. What’s more, the current landscape supports a shift in this direction.

“As the population grows, more join the middle class (and adopt their consumption habits) and pressure on natural resources increases, we all must look at new ways of doing things,” Dell stated.

The technology industry is uniquely positioned to help foster this change, and Dell is currently leading the way here.

Moving from linear to circular

As opposed to harvesting raw materials and creating goods that will be eventually thrown out, Dell noted that it’s time to eliminate this wasteful point of view. Instead, we should leverage our available resources in a more efficient manner for a longer period of time.

“The system relies on designing products with the entire lifecycle in mind (including ease of reuse, repair and recycling), finding more efficient materials and means (including use of renewable resources) and looking at new business models that transform processes and relationships,” according to Dell.

This approach could have a significant impact on the world. In addition to considerably reducing overall waste and boosting efficiency, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation pointed out that a circular economy could also save money and create employment opportunities. Overall, switching to circular economies could help establish 400,000 new jobs and save $1 trillion a year in material costs.

Where the technology sector fits in

Now is potentially the best time for the technology industry to embrace the idea of a circular economy, especially as so many enterprises continue to ditch legacy hardware for new, virtualized solutions.

Dell has taken this idea and ran with it – the company utilizes a closed-loop recycling strategy certified by UL Environment.

“Using plastics recovered from technology collected through our recycling efforts to make new plastic parts gives these plastics an extended life, has a smaller carbon footprint and even reduces costs,” Dell pointed out.

In addition, the technology provider is also encouraging a

“In the spirit of delivering technology with fewer resources used, Dell cloud services help customers scalably provision various types of technology for their workforce or their customers without tying it to new hardware,” Dell stated.

From the technology industry's perspective, a circular economy focuses on the recycling of materials as well as virtualization. From the technology industry’s perspective, a circular economy focuses on the recycling of usable materials as well as virtualization.

Virtualization: A step in the right direction for enterprises

As technology vendors do their part in recycling available materials, it’s also important for enterprises to join in on these efforts as well. As noted, virtualization can make a big difference here, helping to reduce dependency on hardware while enabling businesses to better utilize their computing power. Instead of installing an entirely new server, IT teams can spin up digital environments in which their critical documents, databases and other assets can live within a partitioned server already in place.

This approach can also help combat the growing problem of zombie servers, which are machines that are turned on and consuming energy without providing any real or valuable computing operations. According to 2014 statistics from the National Resources Defense Council and Anthesis, more than 3 million of the 12 million servers in the U.S. are zombie servers.

“Virtualization is another way our customers can extend their technology without taking on new resources,” Dell pointed out. “Migrating physical servers to virtual ones and consolidating can lower monthly power and cooling costs and reduce the whole data center footprint, delaying or even eliminating the need to build new facilities.”

Spreading the word: Dell’s “Legacy for Good” short film contest

Dell is also taking this idea to the streets with its short film contest in partnership with actor and Dell Social Good Advocate Adrian Grenier.

“There are many inspiring examples of how innovative thinking and new technologies can help us to create a more sustainable economy and we want to bring these stories to light to help inspire broader action,” Grenier said.

More information on the contest can be found here.

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