Product End of Life

Responsibly managing product end of life is a core component of EMC’s commitment to product stewardship. As technology continues to unlock new opportunities for society worldwide, the volume of electronic waste (eWaste) also increases. EMC accepts its responsibility to protect human health and the environment through the proper management of our hardware products throughout their entire lifecycle, including the design of products for extended use, and easier disassembly and recycling at end of life (see Product Stewardship and Efficiency). Our engineers also research and implement alternatives to potentially harmful materials in our products, and seek new opportunities for closed loop processes (see Product Material Content).

When our products reach end of life, EMC strives to meet the highest standards of human health and safety and environmental stewardship while maximizing the economic value of returned products. We offer product take back to all of our customers, and work with our carefully selected and managed IT Asset Disposal (ITAD) suppliers to help ensure products are recycled and disposed of responsibly and in compliance with the law. Of the material that we take back, more than 99 percent is remanufactured, recycled, or resold at a commodity level for new use.  We also maximize the reuse of electronic assets in EMC’s internal operations. For more detail on our requirements and commitments, read our Guidelines for Electronic Take-Back and Handling.

We continually measure and manage our performance, and work closely with our ITAD suppliers to maintain standards for certification, audits and reporting. In 2016, we plan to continue that maturation and growth.

Key Metrics: 2015

  • 100% of ITAD suppliers receiving EMC equipment were certified to R2 or e-Stewards standards
  • 100% of Tier 1 ITAD suppliers audited to EMC standard by third-party auditors
  • 79% reduction in major downstream audit findings relative to 2013 baseline
  • Estimated 54% by weight of product taken back at end of life

Product Take Back

We encourage and accept returns of all EMC-branded products at the end of their useful life. In 2015, we took back an estimated 18,450 metric tons of eWaste. Our cumulative returns from 2008-2015 total more than 93,676 metric tons (206 million pounds). In 2014, EMC also began tracking the percentage of product taken back versus product sold by weight. This metric, while based on several assumptions such as estimated product lifespan, helps EMC approximate the net amount of material we recover after placing it on the market. The chart below shows our performance from 2012 through 2015. Although we saw a decline in the estimate for 2015, this appears to be driven by a variety of factors, including longer product lifetimes, and is not necessarily indicative of a decline in the responsible disposition of product.

Responsible Recycling and Disposition

When product is returned to EMC, we perform data erasure to protect customer information. Products are disassembled and, where possible, some subassemblies are remanufactured and tested to new product standards so they can be used again. Components that cannot be remanufactured are sent to our ITAD suppliers, who responsibly reclaim, recycle or resell the remaining material. Less than one percent is sent to landfill. Disk drives sent to ITAD suppliers for disposal are degaussed (magnetically erased) and/or physically shredded prior to recycling. In 2015, we continued to maintain a high environmental standard by recycling, remanufacturing or reselling 99.7 percent of all materials we took back.

ITAD Supplier Certifications and Audits

Partnering with responsible and transparent ITAD suppliers is crucial to proper eWaste management. We use ITAD supplier certifications, site visits and independent audits to verify that our standards are being met and to confirm that eWaste is being disposed of responsibly.

Since 2013, we have required all of our Tier 1 ITAD suppliers to be R2 or e-Stewards certified – the two most widely recognized third-party certification programs.  We have thus maintained 100 percent Electronics Disposal Efficiency (EDE), a metric developed by The Green Grid that measures the percentage of eWaste disposed of by known responsible entities. In keeping with EMC’s stated objectives, the metric assesses responsible disposition instead of simply the volumes of eWaste recovered.

Maintaining 100 percent EDE helps to ensure that our electronics recyclers:

  • Maximize reuse and recycling;
  • Minimize risk to human or environmental health, both in their own facilities and by downstream handlers; and
  • Protect data residing on used electronics.

In addition to requiring these certifications, we continued to audit all of our ITAD suppliers in 2015. Auditing ITAD supplier facilities monitors compliance with EMC requirements and drives continuous improvement at each facility. The following provides an overview of the topics verified in audits.

Audit results from 13 facilities revealed 19 downstream findings, 52 business management findings, and 67 EHS findings. Examples of findings included incomplete downstream documentation, incomplete noise testing, incomplete hazardous energy and confined spaces procedures, and gaps in documented business ethics policies.

Caption: Note: Number of findings is reported relative to the number of audits conducted in order to normalize for the changing number of sites audited each year. In addition, 2013 and 2014 business elements and EHS findings were reviewed and adjusted as needed to align with current (2015) audit protocol.

While this is still a significant number of findings, by comparing across years and normalizing for the number of audits conducted, we can see the progress made in 2015. This is particularly true in downstream and EHS categories, where findings decreased by 59 and 21 percent, respectively. For example, facilities showed that they had improved their business continuity planning, downstream tracking systems, and air emissions inventories. We expect to see continued progress in 2016.

When issues are identified, EMC works closely with our ITAD suppliers to address audit findings. Each ITAD supplier creates a Corrective Action Plan, and EMC provides coaching and conducts reviews throughout the process. Most findings are closed (with documentation) within three months of discovery. Audit findings are considered a key performance indicator for all ITAD suppliers. The impact of this metric was strengthened in 2015 with the launch of our new ITAD supplier scorecard. Supplier audit performance and improvement, certifications, and commitment to strong social and environmental responsibility and business continuity practices make up 25 percent of ITAD suppliers’ total scores at EMC.

Progress to 2020 ITAD Audit Goals

Comparing our 2015 ITAD audit data to our 2013 baseline shows good progress toward our 2020 goals, as demonstrated in the data below. We expect this progress to continue in 2016.

Note: In both charts below, findings are indexed to the number of audits conducted in a given year, normalizing the percentages to the number of audits completed.