As a result of legislation the electronics industry faces product takeback and recycling. It is therefore important to understand the environmental burden caused by discarded consumer electronics and also how to better manage raw materials. The thesis begins with a review of current environmental issues from the viewpoint of the electronics industry. This shows that there are many complex interactions to be considered within any environmental framework particularly those between legislation, technology and business. Consideration of the drivers indicates that work should focus on the design understanding required to allow product life extension as well as current strategies addressing the reprocessing of used products. The body of the thesis therefore has two themes, both of which use telecommunications products, telephones, as their exemplar. The first theme, the design issues related to the end-of-life management is explored via a benchmarking study of eight telephones from European (UK and Germany) and Far Eastern suppliers (China and Malaysia). This study allowed the generation of design rules for such products. The work also examined the impact of design changes to improve end-of-life practices on manufacturing costs in Europe and the Pacific Rim to indicate the constraints of labour and investment costs. The second theme links the business and technological issues faced in the end-of-life (EOL) management of electronic products. The EOL options considered are: resale, remanufacturing, recycling, disposal and to a limited extent, upgrading. Building on the technological understanding generated in the first theme accurate economic models are derived, based on commercial data, for exemplar telephone products that reflect the activities within each option. The potential revenue from each option indicates preferred design strategies and the models can therefore help resolve some of the uncertainties faced by decision makers. The thesis closes by identifying that the design rules and financial models are particularly appropriate for mature products such as the telephones used as exemplars, further research is therefore necessary to extend the existing work to high added value products.
British Library (UK) or Pilkington Library, Loughborough University (UK)
Ming Kaan Low
Loughborough University, UK
Professor David J. Williams