Life Cycle Analysis

Computer recyling logo

It is possible to find a new life for old IT equipment through technologies such as Open Source Solutions. Computers and mobile phones can also be exported for re-use, although this does not solve the disposal problem once they have ceased to function smoothly at the end of their life cycle. Producer compliance schemes in the UK are currently likely have to pay more to cover their recycling costs following a sharp fall in plastics and metal prices. Income from recycling schemes is affected by the price of scrap, and in particular steel. While revenue has been affected, continued investment in facilities is required so as to maintain a high quality recycling process and make schemes viable. Notwithstanding currently deflated price levels, there is still value to scrap merchants for some metals including precious metals within computer and mobile phone components.

Life cycle analysis consists of three stages:

  • Inventory analysis - selecting items for evaluation and quantitative analysis
  • Impact analysis - evaluation of impacts on ecosystems
  • Improvement analysis - evaluation of measures to reduce environmental loads

Improvement analysis can be used to select a hierarchy of options, with the aim to prioritise objectives near the top of the hierarchy e.g.;

  1. REDUCE quantities used. Create less waste: avoid over-packaged products and disposable items.
  2. RE-USE as much as possible. Buy re-usable and refillable products to save money.
  3. RECYCLE whenever possible. Try to recycle as much as possible. Only collect materials that can be recycled locally and remember not to make a special trip.

Life cycle assessment builds upon these steps to add an evaluation to an inventory.

Recycling is the most efficient method to dispose of household waste. However one of the reasons that UK recycling rates are as low as they are is that incineration currently receives more tax breaks and subsidies than recycling, and is therefore cheaper. It is estimated that the amount of government support potentially available for incineration is between £7.65 - £14.75: that is dependent upon them being eligible for the full range of credits, in practice incinerators do not generally incorporate CHP for example worth £1 per tonne.