The application of Consequential LCA in WEEE management
June 5-10, 2016
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been widely applied in the recycling technologies assessment of solid waste including Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). In practice, besides the recycling technology, the sustainable operation of WEEE recycling system are affected by many other factors and mechanisms, including the market mechanism, policy inclination, manufacturing technology innovation, and the consumption style changes of consumers. The methodology of Consequential LCA (CLCA) is introduced to analyze the impact of external policy factor in this study, as it can assess the environmental consequences of a key policy or action decision more reasonably.
Waste Mobile Phone (WMP) is chosen as the target product for its large generation amount, changing materials composition, high replacement frequency, and large number of new mobile phone users and second-hand phone users. There are several components in the waste mobile phone which are prepared for reuse in the informal treatment process in China, such as the vibrators, screens, and the chips. But in the China WEEE management system based on Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) theory, components reuse is not included, which means that the treatment measures for components reuse can not get potential economic subsidy from the Producers Responsibility Organization (PRO). As the China WEEE management system has not applied to the phone, two assumptions are made in this study to compare the environmental performance changes of treatment of WMP, one is that the WMP components reuse can get some subsidy from PRO, the other is that only the WMP materials recovery can get the subsidy. Then with the consequential LCA method, the subsequent environmental impacts of different assumptions are obtained.
The results show that, Consequential LCA help identify the subsequent environmental performances of different policy choices. If components reuse can not get any subsidy, the environmental impact of end-of-life of WMP will become larger, not only as the recycling company can get more profit with the subsidy, but also the downstream industries will need more new components and increase the requirements for copper and other recycled metals. Further studies on more mechanisms such as technology innovation are in need to tell more clearly on the sustainable management of waste mobile phone.
Bin Lu, Xiaolong Song, Jianxin Yang, and Wenjie Wu, "The application of Consequential LCA in WEEE management" in "Life Cycle Assessment and Other Assessment Tools for Waste Management and Resource Optimization", Professor Umberto Arena, Second University of Naples, Italy Professor Thomas Astrup, Denmark Technical University, Denmark Professor Paola Lettieri, University College London, United Kingdom Eds, ECI Symposium Series, (2016). https://dc.engconfintl.org/lca_waste/33