Computer chip manufacturer Intel has set a goal to recycle 90% of its non-hazardous waste and divert 100% of its hazardous waste from landfills by 2020 through its innovative circular economy; an effective economic system which minimizes waste and makes the most of its reclaimed resources – a rather regenerative approach – in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which has a ‘take, make, dispose’ production model. In fact, since 2008, Intel has recycled 75% of the total waste it generated by upcycling, recycling, reclaiming and reusing.
For starters, Intel has developed an onsite electro-winning system that recovers solid copper for reuse from an aqueous waste stream (liquid waste that is almost entirely water-based) generated by their semiconductor manufacturing. This allows the copper to be recovered and re-enter the metals market supply chain for reuse in other industrial or commercial applications. This recovery process – replicated at Intel’s microprocessor manufacturing sites – allowed more than two-thirds of their waste to be recovered in 2016!
Intel had a target to reduce its direct greenhouse gas emissions by 10% a year by 2020. Remarkably, it reduced its carbon footprint by over 60% from 2007; tripling its goal of 20% by 2012 through different methods like installing solar panels and investing in other green energy.
Consequently, Intel says its technology advancements also led to increasing water usage and chemical-waste production. Many of the new manufacturing methods that improve energy efficiency require more chemicals and water rinses. Instead of reducing its water consumption as hoped, Intel is using 12% more water per chip. However, the company, which drew 8.3 billion gallons of water in 2011, recovered 80% of that water for possible other uses like irrigation.
Using the circular economy has also proved to be beneficial as it has led to economic savings of more than $400 million, according to the company. Intel instills a strong commitment to environmental responsibility and strives to innovate and improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and conserve resources throughout their operations.