Date: 20 May 2005

Development of an Environmental Assessment Method for Consumer Electronics by combining Top-down and Bottom-up Approaches (11 pp)

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Abstract

Goal, Scope and Background

Ecodesign requires environmental assessment methods, which are often time consuming and cost intensive. In this paper we proposed a method that combines top-down (e.g. LCA) and bottom-up (e.g. UNEP) approaches that allows one within short period of time to generate ecodesign ideas by identifying what to improve, how much to improve, and how to improve within a short period of time. The proposed method incorporates an environmental assessment method for use in the ecodesign of consumer electronics that employs the top-down and bottom-up approaches simultaneously.

Method

The proposed method consists of five modules: A. a life cycle thinking for a product, B. environmental benchmarking, C. checklist method, D. ecodesign strategies, and E. environmental design information. A key life cycle stage with significant environmental impact is identified in module A. When the identified key life cycle stage is not product manufacturing, environmental benchmarking is used; however, a checklist method is applied if product manufacturing is identified as the key life cycle stage. Ecodesign strategies for consumer electronics are obtained in module D. Environmental design information is produced by linking both the top-down and bottom-up information in module E.

Results and Discussion

The applicability of the proposed method was evaluated using mobile phones. First, the key life cycle stage of the mobile phone was identified as the raw material acquisition stage. Next, environmental benchmarking was carried out for 10 parameters belonging to the raw material acquisition stage. Environmental target specifications for the 10 parameters were set, ranging from 14% to 60%. Finally, environmental design information for the mobile phone was determined by linking the target specifications of the environmental benchmarking parameters and the corresponding ecodesign strategies. The proposed method was also compared with the LCA and the UNEP/promising approaches, which are representative examples of the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach, respectively. Based on the results of this comparison, the proposed method was judged to be an advanced method in facilitating the generation of ecodesign ideas. Environmentally significant benchmarking parameters correspond to what to improve, target specifications to on how much to improve, and ecodesign strategies ton how to improve. It was found that the use of the proposed method minimizes the time and money expenditure by confining the identification of environmental weak points within the key life cycle stage.

Conclusion and Outlook

An environmental assessment method for consumer electronics in ecodesign was proposed and applied to mobile phones. The advantages of the proposed method are as follows: it is efficient and cost-effective, and it allows designers to generate ecodesign ideas more easily and effectively by simultaneously identifying the specific environmental weak points of a product and corresponding ecodesign strategies. The proposed method can be envisaged as a useful ecodesign approach when electronic companies identify the environmental aspects of their products and integrate them into product design and development process.