Treatise on Sustainability Science and Engineering edition:XIII pages:30-42
Traditionally eco-design has been steered by an implicit hierarchy of preferences with respect to the end-of-life options for products of which the total life cycle impact is to be minimized. In this context, life time extension is typically preferred over disassembly for reuse of components, which in its turn is preferred over material recycling. However, this priority hierarchy is often too simplistic to accept it as a general applicable guideline: both ecological and economic considerations can make life time extension and/or the reuse of components non-favourable strategies in cases where product performance and resource efficiency may evolve rapidly as result of continuous innovation. Furthermore, where ecological indicators might confirm the suitability of a life time extension strategy at component level, economic constraints often make such scenarios infeasible. De facto today few disassembly activities prove to be economically viable. However, the emergence of new technologies and business strategies could indicate a reversal of the trend to abandon the higher priority end-of-life treatment methods for manufactured goods. Based on extensive, case study driven research, successful business models were revealed that improve the economic viability of systematic product reuse, refurbishment or disassembly in function of component reuse. Where material recycling proves to be the only realistic scenario, newly emerging self-disassembly techniques could help to improve the feasibility of pure material fraction separation before shredding is applied.