Technological watch

Life-cycle modeling framework for electronic waste recovery and recycling processes

Policies and regulations such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) have been implemented to potentially increase the recycling rate of electronic waste (e-waste), but the cost and environmental impacts of associated collection, transportation, material recovery, material re-processing, and disposal could outweigh the benefits of recycling if the e-waste management system is not effectively designed and implemented. This paper presents a quantitative, holistic framework to systematically estimate life-cycle impacts and costs associated with e-waste management. This new framework was tested using data from the state of Washington's EPR program to represent e-waste collection, transportation, processing and disposal. Sensitivity of process-level life-cycle model outputs to parameter and input variability was also conducted. Drop-off using fossil-fuel-powered personal vehicles was found to be a key contributor to cost and carbon dioxide emissions. Decision-makers must account for drop-off and consider the feasibility of alternate e-waste aggregation strategies to ensure life-cycle benefits of e-waste recycling are maximized.

Publication date: 01/10/2020

Author: Megan Kramer Jaunich, Joseph DeCarolis, Robert Handfield, Eda Kemahlioglu-Ziya, S. Ranji Ranjithan, Hadi Moheb-Alizadeh

Resources, Conservation and Recycling

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2020-07-14