The 3 “R”s of Digital Waste

Not so long ago, I have started the movement to bring awareness to “digital waste” – the bytes of data that becomes dormant and forgotten, residing in various medium, contributing to a global dump of digital waste that requires utilities like electricity for servers and the Internet, and the vast infrastructure investments to contain them. It is also referred to as soft waste, as opposed to Electronic Waste (e-Waste) that points towards hardware like discarded computers, servers, mobile devices, etc.

How do we help to put a stop; no, we can never put a stop to the creation and storage of digital waste – it is a matter of Reduce, Recycle and Relinquish – in the similar tones of “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” – but in a different context.

Good programming practice requires versioning – and that means having a gradually upgraded version of software being kept in case it has to trace back for accidentally deleted resources. Reduce would encompass use of innovative techniques to store these versions. For example, in Microsoft Word, the Track Changes feature of versioning helps to retain the changes in a single file; no necessity to duplicate a copy of it – and hence “reduce” storage space – even how minute it can be.

Recycle would mean to re-purpose content that can be used. If you have a done presentation, it can be edited, not save a copy and edit it for the next use.

Finally, the hardest of all, Relinquish. This is to totally renounce, delete or erase the file. Make sure it is moved to the Trash bin. A “Delete” will mean it is moved to a “Bin” – a special folder that you can assess to retrieve accidentally deleted items.

Though it seems pale in comparison to printing on physical paper ; D-Waste and its supporting infrastructure and utilities use, will surpass the cost of printing.

Then there are proponents of developing digital data over physical paper forms – these are good data; it is created, used and stored to avert paper copies – and it is encouraged. But if there is d-waste generated due to over-conservative, then it has nothing about the data, but how the data is used, replicated for storage. See , and then it will boils down to the management of data.

Finally, I chanced upon a site to recommend ways to reduce Digital Waste:

Then there is a program called “We Warm Each Other” that measures your digital trash- files you move into your computer’s trash bin- and “converts” it into heating for homeless shelters in Sweden. For more information, visit

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