Earth Day and Microsoft


A few weeks ago I posted about Microsoft teaming up on the Live Earth Concert. The post contained a little skepticism as to Microsoft’s actual commitment to the environment. Also in that article I mentioned the Styrofoam recycling containers in the break rooms and cafeterias.
This last Sunday was Earth Day, and in promotion of Earth Day Microsoft had an article on an internal site, “10 Steps You Need to Take Now. You can do your part in helping to make Microsoft green. Here are ten steps you need to take now to help conserve energy, reduce waste, and minimize your workplace's impact on the environment.” One if the things employees can do is, “Recycle all polystyrene and aluminum, as well as white and mixed paper.” In fact this was number one.


I began to wonder about how Styrofoam/ polystyrene is recycled, this lead me to an interesting FAQ’s available to employees on the subject. I can’t add the actual link since the source of my information is internal, and I haven’t been able to find an external link to back it up for reference. But believe me, what I’m about to post is 100% true.


At one point, Microsoft did recycle Polystyrene but due to some undisclosed reason they no longer recycle the Styrofoam cups and plates used for all drinks and meals on the Microsoft campus. My guess on the undisclosed reason is cost. And in searching for other recycling options, it appears there were none worth using. The Puget Sound has over 30,000 Microsoft employees with the majority of those on the Microsoft campus. That’s A LOT of Styrofoam plates and cups to go through in a day.


What does Microsoft do with all the Styrofoam cups and plates? They are trucked 300 miles to Spokane Washington, and burnt in the Waste to Energy plant managed by Wheelabrator, Inc. That’s right, Microsoft the environmental champions, burn tons of Polystyrene each year. I don’t know the actual numbers, but I’ve seen the garbage bins full of Polystyrene and can imagine it’s a good quantity considering the number of employees.
By burning this product, we of course are releasing C02 gases into the atmosphere, which as most of you should know, contributes to global warming. But apparently that’s ok, because according to this source, “CO2 is absorbed by trees and plants and processed into oxygen.” So you see Microsoft is just feeding the trees.


At this point you are probably wondering, “Why doesn't Microsoft use flatware and china instead of disposable products for food services?” The answer – “Reusable products were found to be the least economical solution.” Obviously this breaks down to, the largest software company in the world, who’s chairman is the richest man in the world, doesn’t want to spend the money to hire dishwashers and refit the cafeterias with dishwashing machines. Yet, on a side note, we do employ people whose sole responsibility is standing in front of the parking lots waiving at people coming and going.


Over the past couple of weeks I’ve brought this up to employees and contractors, and as you can imagine, not a single of person was aware that the polystyrene recycling containers all over the place, end up being burnt with the rest of trash.


Besides Microsoft not following through with what they preach; most employees actually think they are recycling. Instead of bringing in ceramic of plastic cups to use, they are going through multiple Styrofoam cups each day.

Comments

Rooster said…
I don't believe in global warming, gravity, or the Easter Bunny. You're argument here is totally illegitimate.

Oh sorry, Karl Rove had control of my keyboard for a minute.