LCA and ecodesign in the toy industry: case study of a teddy bear incorporating electric and electronic components
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- Muñoz, I., Gazulla, C., Bala, A. et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2009) 14: 64. doi:10.1007/s11367-008-0044-6
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Background, aim, and scope
A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) of a toy incorporating electric and electronic components is carried out following the ISO 14044 standard, with the purpose of identifying the environmental hotspots and suggesting ecodesign measures to the manufacturer.
Materials and methods
The product under study is a teddy bear which sings songs and tells stories while moving its body, using conventional alkaline batteries as a source of energy. This toy is designed by a Spanish company, but manufactured entirely in China, from where it is exported to Europe, America, and Africa. The LCA study includes production of all components in China, maritime and road distribution, use phase, and end-of-life. Life cycle impact assessment is focused on five standard impact categories from the CML 2001 method.
The use phase is identified as potentially the most important life cycle stage, due to the impact of battery production. It is responsible for 50% to 64% of the overall life cycle impact, depending on the impact category. Toy production is also an important stage, with 28% to 34% of the total contribution. Maritime distribution also involves relevant contributions in some impact categories. Based on the results of the study, a set of ecodesign measures were suggested to the manufacturer, with most of them being judged as feasible, and applied in a new product.
Important data gaps were encountered during the study, especially concerning the use phase, due to lack of data on consumer behavior, and background inventory data on alkaline battery production. A sensitivity analysis applied to the use phase showed that the relative importance of this life cycle stage is strongly affected by the assumptions made in this work.
The LCA study was found as a very helpful tool to define ecodesign measures for this product. Several measures suggested have been actually implemented by the manufacturer in a similar product.
Recommendations and perspectives
This case study, together with others, will help in the long run to define general ecodesign measures for the toy sector in Catalonia.