Highlights of IBM Report on Reducing Risk and Carbon Emissions in Media Disposal at End-of-Life

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A new white paper written by Dr. Shawn Brume of IBM entitled Reducing Risk and CO2e in the Disposition of IBM Physical Tape Media does a great job in answering what to do with tape media at end-of-life (EOL).

The report is timely as the industry is gaining interest and awareness of energy consumption in data storage driven by ESG directives. For example, a recent white paper by Brad Johns Consulting, Improving Information Technology Sustainability with Modern Tape Storage demonstrates the sustainability and cost-benefit of tape:

  • LTO-9 tape consumes 87% less energy and produces 97% less CO2e than HDD during its lifecycle
  • eWaste at time of disposal is reduced by 85% for 18 TB LTO-9 tape compared to 18TB HDD
  • Ten-year TCO analysis shows a 78% reduction for tape compared to HDD

Shawn’s white paper explores the issues and best practices when it comes to the final disposal of tape media in the EOL phase. So let’s review the highlights of Shawn’s report.

Safely Destroying the Data

When it comes to any kind of media destruction or disposal, whether it be HDD, tape, SSDs, optical, etc. it’s critical to ensure that the data has been properly eradicated. Think about personal information like credit card numbers or social security numbers, they can’t be recoverable by bad actors from data media that has been tossed in a dumpster. Once data is classified for destruction, three options for destruction of the data are:

  • Cryptographic Erase – for tape media that has been encrypted, this process simply requires destruction/deletion of the encryption keys requiring only minutes to accomplish for any number of tape media.
  • Degauss – tape media is exposed to an approved electromagnet that scrambles the magnetic signals making up the 1s and 0s rendering the original data unreadable. May require hours per cartridge to accomplish.
  • Secure Data Erase – this involves over-writing the original 1s and 0s with all 1s. The tape will then be reusable but this is a time consuming process.

Each of the above comes with its own environmental impact and energy consumption requirements. In the case of cryptographic erase, near unreportable energy consumption and carbon impact is involved by simply hitting the delete button on the encryption keys. The two other methods will consume energy and have a carbon impact.

About Tape Cartridge Components

Tape media is designed for long term durability so the materials used exceed consumer standards. However, all plastics used in the tape cartridge are classified as Group 7 recyclable and require similar recycling processes as consumer products. Tape media is also considered waste facility safe producing no discharge in the landfill process. Digital tape itself has no toxic implications with 99% of the material by weight being recyclable. Only the tiny cartridge memory chip results in e-waste.

Options for Disposition of Physical Media

Once the data is safely eradicated, what to with the remaining physical tape media? Keeping in mind that 99% of the materials in LTO and 3592 tapes are recyclable, Shawn offers up the following options:

  • Incineration – the option of incineration at a power plant has the benefit of generating energy, but comes with extremely high carbon impact. Not an environmentally friendly option!
  • Pulverization/Pelletization – this involves delivering the tape media to a certified recycler where the tape will be pulverizing into flakes or pellets for reuse in manufacturing of other products. This requires a certified recycler and will consume energy in the process although carbon impacts are offset by reuse of the output.
  • Shredding – this option is sometimes performed by organizations on site with the output delivered to a recycler.
  • Tape Media Recycling – in this case meaning the sale of operational media to others for resale or reuse. This can provide the secondary user with a discount but in exchange for media that has increased wear and reduced data durability. Initial user gets the benefits of carbon credits but also takes a risk of data security.
  • Repurposing – this can be a viable internal option where an entire tape infrastructure can be used in support of deep storage for long-term retention.

Presenter at the 12th Annual Global IT Executive Summit

Shawn concludes his report by pointing out that ESG initiatives are now indeed part of the IT process and sustainable methods of equipment disposal must be planned for. Click here to read the full report.

For more on Shawn’s work on sustainability issues, check out this short video.

“It’s not a question of if, but when organizations will need to seriously address carbon emissions related to storage devices” – Dr. Shawn Brume

Rich Gadomski

Head of Tape Evangelism

As Head of Tape Evangelism for FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc., Rich is responsible for driving industry awareness and end user understanding of the purpose and value proposition of modern tape technology. Rich joined Fujifilm in 2003 as Director of Product Management, Computer Products Division, where he oversaw marketing of optical, magnetic, and flash storage products. Previously Rich held the position of Vice President of Marketing, Commercial Products, where he was responsible for the marketing of data storage products, value added services and solutions. Rich has more than 30 years of experience in the data storage industry. Before joining Fujifilm, Rich was Director of Marketing for Maxell Corp. of America where he was responsible for the marketing of data storage products. Prior to that, Rich worked for the Recording Media Products Division of Sony Electronics. Rich participates in several industry trade associations including the Active Archive Alliance, the Linear Tape-Open Consortium (LTO) and the Tape Storage Council. Rich also manages Fujifilm’s annual Global IT Executive Summit. Rich holds a BA from the University of Richmond and an MBA from Fordham University. FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc., is the leading manufacturer of commercial data tape products for enterprise and midrange backup and archival applications and provides long term data storage products and software through its FUJIFILM Data Management Solutions team.