Digital pollution

While digital technology is a source of great progress, its acceleration is a cause for concern. Digital technology is responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions as of today. It is estimated that by 2025 it could account for 8% of emissions. Impacts are to be considered at all stages of the life cycle of a device (from the extraction of raw materials to the end of the equipment’s life). The massive storage of data on our digital equipment contributes to reducing its lifespan and therefore to producing more and more new equipments.

What is digital data pollution?

In a context of widespread pollution, one pollution has not yet been addressed: digital data pollution.

There are 4.5 billion digital users in the world, and their uses are becoming more and more widespread and sustained. Every minute, we do 3.8 million searches on the Internet, send 41.6 million messages, watch 700,000 hours of Netflix streaming, store files and archive photos on our devices or in our clouds.

All these uses contribute to the creation of data and the consumption of energy. Indeed, computers, networks, boxes, data centres, routers… all this equipment is in demand and requires significant resources.

IDC’s Global StorageSphere study estimates that 98% of the data created or replicated each year is « analysed in real time or consumed without ever being saved for future reference ». Despite this, in 2018, over 700 exabytes of storage capacity was added. All media/formats combined (HDD, SSD, NVM-flash/other, optical or even tape storage).

How much data is really useful? How much data is duplicated? How much could be deleted?

What about waste from electrical and electronic equipment ?

According to a UN report, the world’s population generated 53.6 million tonnes of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2019. This is 28% more than in 2014.

70% of it feeds an international export trade of this waste with dangerous components to countries in Africa or South-East Asia. They end up in open-air dumps where adults and children try to survive by processing our end-of-life electrical and electronic waste, between water, soil pollution and air toxicity.

How can we take care of our equipment? How to give them a second life? How to recycle them?

The Cyber World CleanUp Day therefore focuses on two major actions. On the one hand, data cleaning and on the other hand, the second life of equipment. Taking care of our digital equipment helps to limit the rate of renewal, thus reducing the amount of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). urthermore, being aware of the number of files stored on our computers, smartphones or servers, makes us aware of the importance of learning to sort and organise our data.

Through the guides that we provide to participants, we bring the keys to understand these issues and take action.