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Spam is bad for the environment, says McAfee

Report says junk emails add to carbon emissions

Junk email is bad for the environment, according to a study from online security specialist McAfee.

Which? security software tests reveal the best way to stop spam, which is not only a nuisance, but carries security risks.

Now, a report says that spam is also damaging the environment. Spam emails produce as much greenhouse gas emissions each year as 3.1 million cars, according to a survey by McAfee. 

The study showed that globally, spam uses 33 billion kilowatt hours (KWh) a year – enough energy to power 2.4 million homes.

Spam filters

McAfee’s report also claimed that spam filtering currently saved enough energy to reduce emissions equivalent to taking 13 million cars off the road.

The UK was the joint fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) from spam in the world, creating 50,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

The Carbon Footprint of Spam study by research body ICF said that nearly four fifths of the energy use associated with the emails was in end-users deleting spam and searching for legitimate emails.

Stop spam

Jeff Green, senior vice president of product development at McAfee Avert Labs, said the study highlighted that spam had an ‘immense financial, personal and environmental impact on businesses and individuals’.

He said: ‘Stopping spam at its source, as well as investing in state-of-the-art spam filtering technology, will save time and money and will pay dividends to the planet by reducing carbon emissions as well.’


Anti-spam expert Spamhaus added: ‘It’s safe to say that a lot of computing power is used around the world to keep spam out of the inboxes. If spam stopped ISPs could shut off a large number of mailservers and filtering machines, which is an instant cost saver, not only in manpower but also in energy usage,’ said a spokesperson.


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