Virgin plastic is new plastic, and has an environmental impact in both it’s creation and disposal. The three key ways of minimising this (and any other resources) are to reuse, recycle and reduce its use.
Reuse is primarily by refurbishment, with Cisco increasing the amount of refurbished equipment they provide. Cisco had nearly 14,000 metric tons of equipment returned this year for reuse, refurbishing or recycling. This ought to mean that Cisco should also be committing to longer software support cycles. They can take back equipment and refurbish it, prior to selling it a second (or third) time. But to do so means that both the hardware and software needs to be supported.
Recycling is where Cisco will increase its use of “re-grind” plastic in the plastic components they will keep. This minimises the need for virgin plastic in the first place and applies to equipment packaging as well. In the case of Cisco VoIP telephones, recycled plastic makes up 35% of the devices, reducing the need for 437 metric tons of virgin plastic.
Reducing plastic use will remove plastics from both equipment and packaging. Cisco has introduced bezel-less designs for their equipment, such as the ENCS platforms (Cisco extends ENCS platform with low-end ENCS5104) which reduces the plastics. With the introduction of the Cisco 2500 series routers, “pretty” plastic bezels have been on the front of their devices since 1993. (Prior AGS, MGS and IGS routers had all metal cases). We expect to see this extended to most rackmount equipment over the next few years. They are also looking to cut the amount of plastic used in the packaging of the devices for shipping, so more cardboard inserts and few plastic bags will be seen This, however, could increase the shipping weight of equipment, which also has an environmental impact on CO2 generation.
Let’s hope that other OEM’s follow suit with plastic usage. They should also look at energy consumption so that our networks can reduce their impact on the environment over the entire life-cycle.