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Development of an Environmental Assessment Method for Consumer Electronics by Combining Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches

TitleDevelopment of an Environmental Assessment Method for Consumer Electronics by Combining Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsPark P-J, Lee K-M, Wimmer W
Journal TitleInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Pages254 – 264
Keywordsconsumer electronics, ecodesign, ecodesign strategy, environmental assessment method, environmental benchmarking, environmental design information, Life cycle assessment, mobile phone network
AbstractGoal, Scope and Background. Ecodesign requires environmentalassessment methods, which are often time consuming andcost intensive. In this paper we proposed a method that combinestop-down (e.g. LCA) and bottom-up (e.g. UNEP) approachesthat allow one to generate ecodesign ideas by identifyingwhat to improve, how much to improve, and how to improvewithin a short period of time. The proposed method incorporatesan environmental assessment method for use in theecodesign of consumer electronics that employs the top-downand bottom-up approaches simultaneously.Method. The proposed method consists of five modules: A. lifecycle thinking for a product, B. environmental benchmarking, C.checklist method, D. ecodesign strategies, and E. environmentaldesign information. A key life cycle stage with significant environmentalimpact is identified in module A. When the identifiedkey life cycle stage is not product manufacturing, environmentalbenchmarking is used; however, a checklist method is applied ifproduct manufacturing is identified as the key life cycle stage.Ecodesign strategies for consumer electronics are obtained in moduleD. Environmental design information is produced by linkingboth the top-down and bottom-up information in module E.Results and Discussion. The applicability of the proposed methodwas evaluated using mobile phones. First, the key life cycle stageof the mobile phone was identified as the raw material acquisitionstage. Next, environmental benchmarking was carried outfor 10 parameters belonging to the raw material acquisition stage.Environmental target specifications for the 10 parameters wereset, ranging from 14% to 60%. Finally, environmental designinformation for the mobile phone was determined by linkingthe target specifications of the environmental benchmarking parametersand the corresponding ecodesign strategies.The proposed method was also compared with the LCA and theUNEP/promising approaches, which are representative examplesof the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach,respectively. Based on the results of this comparison, the proposedmethod was judged to be an advanced method in facilitatingthe generation of ecodesign ideas. Environmentally significantbenchmarking parameters correspond to what toimprove, target specifications on how much to improve, andecodesign strategies on how to improve. It was found that theuse of the proposed method minimizes the time and money expenditureby confining the identification of environmental weakpoints within the key life cycle stage.Conclusion and Outlook. An environmental assessment methodfor consumer electronics in ecodesign was proposed and appliedto mobile phones. The advantages of the proposed methodare as follows: it is efficient and cost-effective, and it allowsdesigners to generate ecodesign ideas more easily and effectivelyby simultaneously identifying the specific environmental weakpoints of a product and corresponding ecodesign strategies. Theproposed method can be envisaged as a useful ecodesign approachwhen electronic companies identify the environmentalaspects of their products and integrate them into product designand development process.
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