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Creating a Circular Economy for Hard Disk Drives: A Shared Vision
Presented by Carol Handwerker, Purdue University and William Olson, Seagate Technology

The iNEMI project on Value Recovery from Used Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) is an industry-academia-government lab-NGO partnership whose vision is increasing value recovery from HDDs throughout their useful lives, with an ultimate goal of creating a global, circular economy for HDDs. Hard disk drives have a special role in electronics: they are ubiquitous, having been designed to be replaceable and interchangeable in products as diverse as computers, servers, and sensor/monitoring equipment. In Phase 1 of the project, an iNEMI multi-stakeholder team developed the groundwork and created momentum for a Phase 2 collaborative project to build an integrated, sustainable, adaptive system for value recovery from end-of-use HDDs. This project has been designed and operated based on extensive research on the most effective methods for sustainable management of common pool resources on which many people rely for their livelihoods. Dr. Elinor Ostrom (2009 Nobel Laureate in Economics) laid out a framework for how people and organizations develop voluntary, community-based solutions involving adaptive, self-governing systems that effectively manage common pool resources without the need for government regulations or privatization. We have applied this framework explicitly to HDDs, as a first demonstration. The US Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute is playing an important role by creating new technologies for rare earth metal resource recovery, as well as by using this analysis to propose specific recommendations to strengthen the US manufacturing base. We will discuss the technological opportunities for value recovery of the Nd2Fe14B magnets from HDDs and the value chains required to realize a HDD circular economy.

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