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We chat to Prof. Deborah Andrews about a Circular Economy for the Data Center Industry

We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Professor Deborah Andrews from CEDaCI to our next online event.

Deborah has 20+ years of experience in sustainable design and manufacture and the Circular Economy and is proud to be a Chartered Environmentalist.

She’s engaged in related research, enterprise and teaching activities and has worked with the data centre industry since 2010, which includes supervising an EPSRC-funded PhD about the Life Cycle Assessment of Data Centres.

Outside of work she enjoys walking, gardening, visiting exhibitions, contemporary dance and music performances and theatre. She is also a regular at the WOMAD world music festival

Her upcoming talk for us is titled – Kickstarting a Circular Economy for the Data Centre industry.

Transitioning from a linear to circular economy is a HUGE challenge, especially with regard to electrical and electronic equipment. The data centre industry is heavily reliant on such equipment but attention to sustainability typically focusses on energy efficiency and carbon reduction.

The CEDaCI (Circular Economy for the Data Centre Industry) project was established to raise awareness about the (un)sustainability of current DCI business practices, and to demonstrate the potential for change and improving material resource efficiency.

Deborah’s talk describes the overall project journey, achievements to date along with resources available for use already and challenges ahead.

How big a problem is the datacentre industry within the climate crisis?

It is difficult to answer this question because there are positive and negative factors to consider and balance.

The data centre industry consumes 1-3% of global electricity supply and emits about the same amount of carbon as the pre-Covid airline industry per year. It also consumes billions of litres of water and tonnes of physical resources such as metals, many of which are regraded at Critical Raw Materials.

However, the sector enables access to many beneficial services such as education, health, communication and information that would be otherwise unavailable to many people. The DCI also accelerates environmental modelling which, in theory, could help us to mitigate the impact of climate change. Although action depends on politicians and big business, so it is neither as fast or extensive as it should be.

What is CEDaCI and how did it originate?

CEDaCI is an interdisciplinary project that uses whole life and systems thinking to address the challenge of kick-starting a Circular Economy for the Data Centre Industry.

I supervised a PhD project which calculated the Life Cycle impacts of a complete data centre – physical resources and operational energy – and we found that the ICT equipment was an environmental ‘hotspot’ but the industry was not addressing this.

There was / is a real need to establish a sectoral circular economy because it currently contributes to the growing e-waste stream and there is a potential threat to supply chains. We need to reduce its environmental impact and improve working conditions for many of the people who work up and downstream in the sector such as materials mining.

How did you become involved and what is your role in the project?

I initiated the concept in 2017 and built a team of 20+ partners in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands comprised of academic and industry partners from many different DCI sub-sectors. The project is funded by Interreg North West Europe.

It started at the end of 2018 and has been very successful. In 2021 we were awarded additional funding and have included partners from Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg as well.

What can we expect from your talk?

I will explain more about the CEDaCI project, our key outputs and achievements so far and what we hope to achieve in the future.

What are your hopes for CEDaCI?  How can our audience support this work?

I hope that we initiate real change in the sector through our demonstrator pilot projects and Compass too. I also hope the audience learns from and enjoys the talk; we are holding training sessions and it would be great if audience members sign up to learn even more!

Thanks for the chat Deborah!

Catch Deborah’s online (live or later), Thurs March 30th at 12.30pm – RSVP here: