Digital waste – a new type of waste that we (unknowingly) create


A new type of waste threatens us. It’s time to get to know digital waste!

There is a big chance that digital waste will become one of the world’s biggest polluters in just a few years, and most of us don’t even know what it is. By reducing digital waste and preventing its creation, we significantly reduce our carbon footprint and potentially reduce its future threat.


Digital waste is a new term used to define the environmental consequences of poor digital data management. In other words, digital waste is data waste created by storing a large amount of information in a digital (online) form[1]. Suppose all this is still unclear to you. In lay terms, it’s all the things we use or upload on the Internet without many purposes: unnecessary emails, countless applications waiting for their moment or 35 photos of the sunset, 10 of which are blurry and 20 identical. To understand how digital waste can affect the environment in the first place, we need to understand what the Internet is.


Most of us use various gadgets every day and skillfully handle the online world and new trends. However, if someone sat us down and asked how our online reality really works, we’d probably struggle to come up with complete answers, such as the question: “How does the Internet work?”

We all know that the Internet is a system of computer networks. We are less aware of how the Internet relies on physical servers in data centers worldwide. These centers are connected by over half a million cables that pass through the oceans, switches and routers that need the energy to run them, and that’s when fossil fuels enter the story[2]. This leads to the following conclusion – every activity on the Internet increases the carbon pressure on the Planet.



Increasing digitization increases the amount of data used and it is predicted that by 2025, digital waste will become one of the biggest polluters[3]. The Green Cleanup reports that the Internet and its connected systems produce as much as 900 million tons of CO2 annually. Just 20 emails a day equals an average of 1,000 km traveled by car, and one Google search requires as much energy as burning a 60 W light bulb for 17 seconds. However, if we consider that 90% of online data is never used again after three months, we can conclude that there is a way to reduce the impact of this new and modern problem drastically.


1. Do a digital cleanse

In addition to the standard cleaning of your living space this spring, clean your laptops and smartphones. Delete all unnecessary content: repetitive and blurry photos and files, applications that you haven’t used for a long time or use too rarely. Also, turn off all unnecessary notifications for a clean device and a clean head.


2. Keep your devices clean

To prevent wasting several hours or even days sorting through all your files in the future, try to delete everything you don’t need immediately after creating or sharing content.

3. Get your email in order

If you have several email accounts, most of which are filled with thousands of unread emails, it’s time to make a change.

Delete the accounts that turned into a graveyard of promotions, newsletters and other digital waste that will never be useful. Leave functional only one account with which you will unsubscribe from all spam that does not serve you. Also, avoid sending short and unnecessary emails such as: received or thank you.

4. Search wisely

When searching for terms, try to be as directed and specific as possible to reduce the number of necessary Googling. Also, close the searches you no longer use, especially on smartphones, where many unused tabs often accumulate. Additionally, explore so-called eco-friendly search engines.

March 18 this year marks the cleaning of digital waste. Learn how to get involved in the action and calculate how much energy you saved with your efforts. Please share your results with us on social networks. Finally, in addition to digital waste, don’t forget how we can mark this year by reducing all types of waste!

[1] Revolutionized team. 2021. Digital Waste: How Data Storage May Be Harming the Environment.
[2] WebFX team. The Structure of the Internet
[3] Zelena čistka. Digitalna čistka 2022.