In recent years, the consumption of consumer electronics has increased rapidly in the United States and across the world. As the consumer electronics industry continues to innovate and turn over new products, older products become obsolete and enter the ever growing electronics waste stream, which was 2.3 million tons in 2007.The increasing volume of electronic waste (e-Waste) has gained the attention of consumers, media outlets, and policy makers across the world. This has put pressure on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of consumer electronics to manage their products in an environmentally responsible way at the end of their product lifetimes. It has also motivated OEMs to improve their product designs to become more suitable for end-of-life recycling and recovery processes in an effort to reduce their environmental impact. Many sustainable design methods for end-of-life disposition have been developed "ad-hoc" from industry knowledge or "guess and check" methods. The published literature lacks a scientific method for determining the relevant design criteria useful for reducing the environmental impact of end-of-life disposition of consumer electronic products. The purpose of this study is to define the criteria or design characteristics of cellular phones that have a significant relationship with end-of-life disposition environmental impact and lend themselves to sustainable design practices. To determine the significant design characteristics of cellular phones the following activities are performed: (1) a set of design characteristics that may be used to relate the product design and end-of-life environmental impact is defined, (2) the end-of-life disposition of consumer electronics is described, (3) the process for selecting end-of-life separation processes for materials or components is described, (4) the environmental impact is calculated using a one phase, end-of-life disposition life cycle assessment, (5) thirty-four cellular phones, including 10 smart phones are disassembled to evaluate their design characteristics and environmental impacts, and (6) linear regression analysis (LRA) is used to determine the cellular phone design characteristics that have the most significant relationship with end-of-life environmental impact. The results of the research method demonstrate that it is possible to establish a relationship between cellular phone design characteristics and their end-of-life disposition environmental impact. The LRA concluded that Volume is the only significant design characteristic for a cellular phone's end-of-life disposition environmental impact. A cellular phone's end-of-life disposition environmental impact is dominated by components that are regulated by the WEEE protocol (batteries and printed circuit boards), so their environmental impact is driven by the size of these components and not their other design characteristics. This trend is consistent with the results of the one-phase end-of-life disposition life cycle assessments that evaluated the disassembled cellular phones. With this information, designers can focus their sustainable design efforts on modifying and improving the design characteristics that have the strongest relationship with end-of-life disposition environmental impact.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Cell phones--Environmental aspects; Cell phones--Design and construction; Product life cycle; Electronic waste--Management
Department, Program, or Center
Industrial and Systems Engineering (KGCOE)
DeVierno, Ashley, "Determining a relationship between design characteristics and the end-of-life disposition of cellular phones" (2011). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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