The rapid progress of technology means that the devices we use to power our daily lives are becoming ever more advanced. While users benefit from smarter, improved gadgets, and companies like Yandex produce new devices and create new applications for them, the “upgrade cycles” for consumer tech raises an important question - what about older hardware that gets left behind, becoming electronic waste? According to the United Nations, the world creates 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year, and just 20% of this is recycled. At Yandex, we appreciate the environmental hazards posed by the globe’s growing e-waste, and as we roll out new devices, we’re taking steps to try and reduce it.
As a technology company that started providing consumer devices over the last few years, we're committed to sustainability initiatives that reduce the amount of e-waste created. In October, on the first day of sales of our Yandex.Station Mini smart speaker, we encouraged people to bring their older speakers to our official store to exchange them for a free Yandex.Station Mini.
For the speakers we received, we’ve partnered with a local recycling company in Russia who will disassemble the devices and recycle their components. Through this process, speakers that were mainly collecting dust in storage will go on to serve new uses. Their plastic will be used in the construction of windows, while the metal from the speakers will be sent to scrap metal recyclers. Copper smelters will receive part of the wires, while refineries will extract precious metals from the metallic elements that can’t be recycled. What can’t be reused or recovered from the speakers will be disposed of responsibly.
In response to our call for older speakers, over two thousand people lined up at our store with a variety of devices. The first thousand who arrived received Yandex.Station Minis, while we gave the rest credit towards the purchase of one of our smart speakers. We awarded our larger smart speakers, Yandex.Stations, to those who exchanged the most extraordinary speakers, such as gramophones, radiograms, and custom built speakers. These unique items will be displayed in the Yandex museum in Moscow, allowing visitors to take a journey through auditory history.
As one of the companies bringing smart speakers to people’s homes, we also want to be a leader in helping people give new life to their older speakers. We want to thank everyone who helped us keep these speakers from piling up in landfills by bringing them to the Yandex Store, as well as our recycling partner for disposing of the speakers in an environmentally friendly manner.
We hope that, through this exchange program, people will continue to consider ways they can ensure their old electronics are recycled or reused. We encourage other users to explore electronic recycling options in their area so that they, too, can help create a more sustainable world.
For nearly fifty years, people around the world have come together on April 22nd to celebrate Earth Day and take the initiative to protect the environment. We’re celebrating Earth Day 2019 by highlighting the importance of sustainable tech - specifically green data centres and their potential to improve local communities. Our data centre in Mäntsälä, Finland uses innovative heat recovery tech to transfer its excess heat to the local energy grid, providing up to half of the town’s energy needs. This excess recycled heat from the data centre results in lower energy prices and lowered carbon emissions in Mäntsälä. With data centres increasingly forming a crucial backbone for the tech that powers our lives, they stand to only grow in number and importance. Yandex is proud to be at the forefront of efforts to make these vital buildings environmentally friendly and useful to neighboring communities.
Opened in 2015, our engineers designed the data centre with environmental sustainability as a central tenet of the building’s function. The sleek, aerodynamic shell of the building, resembling an aeroplane wing, was designed to take in as much wind as possible to cool the building rather than relying on air-conditioning. Finland also offered favorable dynamics for the sustainability efforts as well. Similar to the cold environments in Russia where we host our other data centres, the Nordic country’s chilly climate means that the centre’s servers need less cooling and can conserve energy. In Finland, sustainable energy policies further contribute to making it an ideal location for hosting the data centre, as 47% of electricity (in Finnish) is produced from renewable resources, and 79% of energy production is carbon neutral.
When designing the Mäntsälä data centre, in addition to the sustainable dynamics of the centre itself, we realized we had the opportunity to transfer excess heat to the benefit of the community. The town’s energy grid offered ideal conditions for the centre’s excess heat. The local utility company, Nivos, welcomed the plan to work together and had the infrastructure to integrate a heat transfer system, with a well-connected network of insulated pipes to bring the excess heat to a central boiler. Currently, the data centre’s excess heat is providing half the town’s heat supply, and Mäntsälä's residents have seen their energy bills reduced by 12%. Carbon emissions produced by Nivos have also declined by 40% because the company can use our data centre’s recycled heat rather than energy generated from fossil fuels.
While our data centre has been transferring excess heat to Nivos since the building’s completion in 2015, we’re excited to be rolling out a more efficient, second generation of heat recovery tech. We started this process in November of last year by introducing the new tech in the part of the facility, which is now recovering 60-80% of excess heat, more than double the energy recycled in the first version. With just a partial implementation of the new tech combined with the first generation of the heat recovery system throughout the rest of the facility, the data centre is currently reusing nearly half of its excess heat. As we look ahead to installing the second version of the heat recovery tech throughout the rest of the data centre, we expect to soon reuse 90% of the facility's energy.
“As an innovative tech company, we at Yandex want to set an example of creating new ideas and innovations for sustainable energy use,” says Ari Kurvi, Manager of the Mäntsälä data centre. “For us, it’s important to ensure communities benefit from our data centres, and one way we can do this is by reusing the excess energy we produce to improve the lives of local people. With the excess heat from our Mäntsälä facility, local households have lower energy bills, lower carbon emissions, and we can fulfill half of their annual energy needs. Once we fully implement the latest heat recovery technology, we expect our Mäntsälä data centre to recycle nearly all consumed energy. We want to show the industry that it’s possible to reuse excess heat from these facilities sustainably, and we encourage the rest of the tech community to design data centres that also work for the good of local communities.”
Tech firms have a central role in making the infrastructure that powers our daily lives more sustainable, and Yandex is proud to be leading these efforts. As we take the time on Earth Day to recognize the importance of sustainable technology, we also celebrate the efforts of people all around the world to come together and protect our environment for a brighter future.