In Europe is now a clear societal need for take-back and recycling of electronic products. “Closing the loop” would serve several (partly interlinked) goals, such as:
- Reduction of the amount of materials and environmentally relevant substances going to landfill,
- Control of environmentally relevant substances (inorganic) or annihilation of such substances (organic),
- Recycling of components and materials so that they keep maximum value, contributing to a sustainability.
Since July 1999 SCARE is in the implementation phase and it will run until June 2004. The Austrian Society for Systems Engineering and Automation is the co-ordinator of SCARE, with total project
costs of 100 million EURO.
The closed product life cycle will consist of two main streams:
- The “traditional” product life chain (such as production, distribution and use) introducing environmental concerns in this stream is called “Eco-design”,
- Re-using and recycling products, components and materials (such as take back, re-use and recycling) – operation of this stream is called “End-of life Management”.
In order to successfully achieve the targets set out in the WEEE Directive, all involved parties have to act according to a common strategy to make it beneficial from both environmental,
political, social and economical perspectives. Uncoordinated approaches to R&D and recycling strategies will lead to duplicated effort, misallocated investment and inefficient use of
resources. A strategic approach involving and co-ordinating all actors in the product life cycle has a greater chance not only to meet legislative targets relating to collection, recycling,
re-use, but to demonstrate practical ways of going beyond these targets:
- Energy consumption strategies relating to production and use stages of electronic products would contribute to a European wide strategy for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and going
beyond the 15 nations pact of an 8% reduction in next 10-14 years (Kyoto protocol),
- The involvement of many different parties requires broad co-ordination to initiate break-through steps. Endless loop-discussions have to be avoided,
- SMEs and supply-companies need to be well prepared for the resulting demands placed on them by large companies,
- Europe has good expertise in eco-design and end-of life management, particularly in the electronics sector. This should be supported to maintain Europe as a competitive strength versus US and
Japan, which are now starting to catch-up,
- The “new” activities in the product life-cycle loop will catalyse employment and contribute to a sustainable social development.
In order to explore Ecodesign and End-of-Life management the following main issues shall be considered during further investigations:
Innovative Product/System Design
- Development of products which are fast to disassemble, enabling the re-use of components and materials
- Technical innovations to reduce the environmental impact of production and product:
- Avoidance of hazardous substances
- Reduced material weight
- Lower power consumption
- Conversion of products into services (dematerialization)
- Development of new cores technologies such as solar power, grow-again materials, ...
New Production Technologies
- Investigation of specific application possibilities of materials, which have already been developed in co-operation with the suppliers
- Development of industrial, environmentally sound production processes
- Development of processes that enable the use of industrial second raw materials in manufacturing
Use Phase (Consumer Behaviour)
- Models for product performance under different use scenarios (public, corporate)
- Optimising take back and bring back systems specific to consumer groups
- Minimising energy consumption and maximising product lifetime
- Support systems for consumer organisations and governments
- Product re-use (refurbishment, second hand markets, legal and guarantee issues)
- Product Take-back (collections scenarios, sorting, logistics)
- Separation (disassembly technology and separation processes, component sorting, material identification)
- Component re-use (quality assessment, second hand market, legal and guarantee issues)
- Recycled material processing (process technology, economies of scale)
In addition, there are three horizontal core competencies, which fulfil a support function for all these main issues.
- Information exchange between all involved players in the chain
- Logistics of product, component and material handling
- Life Cycle Analysis
- Development of an in the product integrated identification unit that enables the collection of data relevant to its subsequent re-use/recycling
- Supply Chain Management
- Re-use market
Education and training of strategy makers, designers, recyclers, ...
- Specialist education/training
- Modules within mainstream educational/training
Financial & Economical aspects
- Life Cycle costing
- Monitoring legal developments