Evaluating alternative life-cycle strategies for electrical appliances by the waste input-output model
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Goal, Scope and Background
In 2001, a new law on the recycling of end-of-life electric home appliances (EL-EHA) was put into effect in Japan; it was the first legislation of its sort in the world, and deserves to be called the ‘Japan model.’ This article is concerned with the LCA of alternative life-cycle strategies for EL-EHA, which consist of recycling as prescribed by the law, ‘ecodesign’ strategies such as the implementation of design for disassembly (DfD) and the extension of product life (EPL), with and without ex-post functional upgradability, and the once-dominant treatment methods such as landfilling and simple shredding.
We use the waste input-output (WIO) analysis, a new method of hybrid LCA that was developed by the authors . The WIO extends the conventional input-output analysis to explicitly take into account the interdependence between the flow of goods and the flow of waste in the whole economy, and hence provides an optimal platform for LCA involving waste treatment and recycling. Furthermore, the WIO enables us to evaluate not only environmental impacts, but also economic impacts such as sectoral output and employment. Our analysis is based on the WIO table for 1995 and detailed process data on recycling.
Results and Discussion
Recycling was found to outperform the ‘traditional’ treatment method strategy with regard to the reduction of CO2 emission, landfill consumption, and the demand for abiotic resources. Thanks to efficient utilization of the existing retail network system, it was also found to be more efficient economically. Additional implementation of DfD and the associated increase in the quality of recovered materials (plastics) were found to augment the positive environmental impacts of recycling. The EPL without upgrading resulted in a significant reduction in the environmental impacts, but also in the level of employment. On the other hand, the EPL with upgrading was found to outperform the recycling strategy in terms of environmental impacts without having significant negative economic impacts.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Recycling of EL-EHA, as prescribed by the Japanese law on the recycling of EL-EHA, was found to be effective in reducing CO2emission, depletion of abiotic resources, generation of waste, and landfill consumption, provided the rate of retrieval remains at a high level. Our results also indicate the possible effectiveness of ecodesign strategy toward the realization of a sustainable economy.
KeywordsDesign for disassembly ecodesign electrical appliances product life recycling waste input-output analysis
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