Using LCA to assess eco-design in the automotive sector: Case study of a polyolefinic door panel

Ivan Muñoz, Joan Rieradevall, Xavier Domènech, Cristina Gazulla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Goal, Scope and Background. The new European legislation concerning End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs) will allow, in 2015, the landfilling of only 5% of the average vehicle weight, which means that the automotive industry must make a great effort in order to design their products taking into account their recyclability when they become waste. In the present work, LCA is used to assess an existing automotive component, a plastic door panel, and to compare it with a designed-for-recycling prototype panel, based on compatible polyolefins. Main Features. A 'cradle to grave' LCA is carried out for the panel currently produced and the prototype. The following scenarios are analyzed for plastic waste: landfilling (current practice in Spain), energy recovery in a MSW incinerator or in a cement kiln, and mechanical recycling. Results and Discussion. The production and use phases together contribute more than 95% in most impact indicators. When the current and prototype products are compared, a decrease in the environmental impact appears for the prototype in the production phase and also at end-of-life if recycling is considered with full substitution of virgin polymers. The overall impact reduction ranges from 18% in the toxicity indicators to 80% in landfill use. Energy recovery in cement kilns appears as a good alternative to recycling in some indicators, such as landfill use or resource depletion. A sensitivity analysis is performed on the quality of recycled plastic, and the results suggest that the benefits of recycling are substantially reduced if full substitution is not achieved. Conclusion. LCA has been shown to be a very useful tool to validate from an environmental point of view a redesigned automotive component; in addition, it has allowed one to identify not only the benefits from increased recyclability, but also improvements in other life cycle phases which were not previously expected. Recommendation and Perspective. From this case study several recommendations to the company have been drawn in order to design environmentally friendly components for car interiors, and ecodesign is expected to be introduced in the company procedures. © 2006 ecomed publishers (Verlagsgruppe Hüthig Jehle Rehm GmbH).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-334
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2006

Keywords

  • Automotive components
  • Design for recycling
  • End-of-life vehicles
  • Energy recovery
  • Landfilling
  • Plastic waste
  • Polyolefins

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