Product Stewardship for Manufacturers

Selected Case Studies

Bosch Power Tools

Summarized from: Return to Sender Case Studies by The National Centre for Design at RMIT University, August 1998

Producer responsibility has been alive at Bosch before it was even defined as an important strategy for minimizing environmental impact. The reputed power tool manufacturer has a highly organized system of product take-back that results in pricing incentives for customers, as well as the recovery of materials that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated. Bosch takes back discarded power tools free of charge and processes them to minimize their environmental impact.

"A typical Bosch power tool contains a diverse range of materials and is made up of over 200 components. The materials include iron, steel, aluminum, copper and various plastics - all of which are recyclable. The inappropriate disposal of power tools to landfill contributes to environmental problems such as the non-sustainable use of resources and the contamination of aquatic ecosystems owing to leaching from components or casings containing heavy metals." A critical contaminant in power tools is nickel cadmium (NiCd), in rechargeable batteries. Due to cadmium toxicity and leachability, recovery should be maximized.

Design for Environment
Bosch initiatives aim at minimizing the life-cycle environmental impacts of its products, from product design through manufacture, logistics, use and recycling. Design for Environment plays a key role in making takeback more environmentally effective and commercially viable, especially designing for end-of-life disassembly, sorting and reprocessing.

Reprocessing Methods
Customers can send tools directly to Bosch or return them to specialist dealers or retailers who provide a new battery or complete tool at a discount price. A Bosch-accredited company "acts as a key stakeholder in managing the logistics and transportation of tools to a Bosch facility where they are disassembled so that recyclable materials can be recovered, sorted and segregated".

If there are problems identifying and separating materials into specific types, the complete tool is shredded by more conventional methods and only metals are recovered. This is somewhat common with older tools where materials have not been coded or identified.

Bosch forwards the NiCd batteries to government approved recycling facilities plants where the nickel, steel and cadmium are recovered and reused.

Herman Miller, Steelcase, Wilkhahn - Three Furniture Manufacturers

Summarized from: Return to Sender Case Studies by The National Centre for Design at RMIT University, August 1998

Two noteworthy American furniture manufacturers, Herman Miller Inc. and Steelcase Inc., and a Wilkhahn, a German manufacturer, have developed comprehensive environmental programs aimed at minimizing life cycle impacts of their products. This includes DfE strategies which enable easier reconditioning for a second life, and disassembly for service, repair, and material recovery.

Furniture is a high-volume consumer of landfill space. Depending on constituents, coatings and finishes, there is also potential for leachate from landfills. It contains a significant amount of embodied energy, and additional energy is consumed in removing and transporting end-of-life furniture to landfills.

Design for Environment
Furniture manufacturers design for disassembly so usable parts can be extracted and reused in new or refurbished furniture. This also facilitates service and repair programs. Also, Wilkhahn puts strong emphasis on durability, recycled content, and straightforward product repair and disassembly. For this company, service and repair play a key role in longevity.

Recovery Methods
"Herman Miller formed a subsidiary, Phoenix Design, to buy back and remanufacture its systems furniture products. The AsNew production process combines parts of used furniture with new pieces so .. can be offered at substantial savings."

Steelcase operates a similar subsidiary, ReVest, which buys ""used Steelcase furniture, then refurbishes, refinishes, reupholsters, and re-sells it" at a much lower cost than new.

When a Wilkhahn chair is no longer useable, they take it back, refurbish, reuse components, or recycle the materials. Their chairs are dismantled at the factory, all unusable parts are sorted into categories of pure-only materials and then recycled.

Whitegoods Takeback: Miele & Cie GmbH, and Appliance Recycling Centers of America (ARCA) & Whirlpool Partnership

Summarized from: Return to Sender Case Studies by The National Centre for Design at RMIT University, August 1998

The Waste Stream
Many appliances are banned from landfills. Certified technicians must remove critical substances, CFCs and PBCs, from older refrigerators. Also, the turnover rate for household appliances in the US is high - and an estimated 40% are due for replacement. (Source: American Iron and Steel Institute). This is due to the age of the appliances as well as the availability of more energy efficient appliances.

"About 75% of the typical household appliance is steel. ... Other materials such as plastic, copper or glass are increasing in the new products, and this is likely to require disassembly and recycling processes to be more sophisticated."

ARCA has partnered with Whirlpool Corporation to recycle used appliances that are scrapped when Whirlpool sells replacement units to apartment complexes, under an "early-retirement" incentive sponsored by the electric utilities. (This effort intends to replace older refrigerators with more energy-efficient models).

Design for Environment
The major life cycle impact of typical appliances, especially refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, etc., is not the design and manufacture of the product, but the energy (and in some cases water also) consumed during its use.

"Miele's washing machines consist of up to 83% metal by weight. Miele claims that over 50% of the weight ...consists of high-grade recycled material. Cast iron componentry contains more than 80% recycled. Stainless steel and steel flatwork have 70% and 100% recycled material. The percentage of reclaim ... in non-metallic parts, however, is considerably lower."

One aspect of DfE is lightweighting. Miele has replaced some metal components with plastic. The progressive increase of plastic in goods, however, also increases the complexity of take-back and recycling initiatives. Also, markets for recycled plastic are far less profitable than for metals.

Recovery Methods
After removal of critical substances, and high-level dismantling, many appliances are put through a large, industrial-size shredder. The materials are then sorted from the shred. "ARCA runs a pilot program to study economical ways to separate and recover pure plastics, such as ABS and HIPS." Recovered plastics are tested for use as new feedstocks. The hope is to develop profitable markets for these plastics.

Miele's used (non-commercial) washing machines are taken back by their retailing partners in Germany, who send the products to a network of collection points for dismantling, sorting and recycling or disposal of all electrical appliances. Commercial machines are also returned, to the appliance dealers, who then take care of the logistics to have the machines transported to sorting sites by an experienced and certified hauler. The program is not restricted solely to Miele machines.

Photocopier Takeback: Xerox

Summarized from: Return to Sender Case Studies by The National Centre for Design at RMIT University, August 1998

The Waste Stream
Photocopiers are complex products, containing many dissimilar materials, e.g., glass, ferrous metal, plastic, copper, and more. Precious metals, metals, and "almost-pure" polymers can be recovered for value. Many reusable components can be salvaged for refurbished copiers.

Design for Environment
Need for periodic maintenance encourages the separation of different components for easy replacement, which inherently aids the disassembly process at the end of the useful life.

Recovery Methods
Xerox Asset Recycle Management set this hierarchy for recovery:

    1 - distribute refurbished equipment in optimal working order to new customers
    2 - restore equipment to original state through remanufacturing
    3 - convert equipment or usable assemblies from equipment into other products
    4 - dismantle to salvage parts for reuse or as spare parts
    5 - recycle source materials of non-salvageable parts, including some materials that are recycled back as feedstock for new Xerox parts

For recovered parts in good working condition, Xerox tests all components to specific performance criteria. Xerox also encourages customers to return reusable toner bottles and printer cartridges, and even provides pre-paid postage to maximize return. These are refurbished or refilled. Through their recovery processes, Xerox claims to reuse 75% of components, and recycle up to 98% of materials from end of life products.

Computer Takeback: IBM Inc., and Hewlett Packard (Australia)

Summarized from: Return to Sender Case Studies by The National Centre for Design at RMIT University, August 1998

IBM's take-back program claims to recover an impressive 90% of incoming material. Hewlett Packard Australia started a Remaketing Operation in Blackburn, with the initial object to remanufacture one line of equipment returned from leasing programs. The operation grew and joined with other similar operations, forming a worldwide division within HP, called the Equipment Management and Remarketing Division (EMRD).

The Waste Stream
Like photocopiers, computers are complex products, containing many dissimilar materials, e.g., CRT glass, ferrous metal, plastic, copper, precious metals, and more. The rapid innovation of computers results in obsolescence every few years. Precious metals, metals, and "almost-pure" polymers can be recovered for value.

Design for Environment
"Computers are being increasingly designed for easier disassembly and parts replacement. Computers are often assembled on request by small companies or computer dealers."

Recovery Processes
IBM (Endicott, NY) operates a re-utilization and demanufacturing line for IBM information technology equipment. The de-manufacturing line is supported by an engineering department, which provides technical assistance (internally and to customers) for all aspects or reuse, reclaiming, and recycling. Information gleaned on disassembly techniques and problems resolved during the recycling processes is incorporated back into new product design.

Spent parts, machines, and software are shipped to Endicott from field support units, branch offices, and external customers. An IBM customer representative collects information from the customer on the equipment, which can prove useful in maximizing recovery of useable parts. Upon receipt, the shipment is verified and a barcode is applied to the load. Dock personnel do an initial quick sort of incoming loads and equipment. An internal tracking and barcoding system accounts for all products and materials.

From Receiving, dismantling teams segregate the equipment in like categories. "Parts for external sale or 'as is' reuse machines are separated." Then large machines are sent to a manual disassembly cell, and desktop and smaller machines are sent to a disassembly line. At each station, parts and materials are sorted, and sent to appropriate shipping phases for dissemination to vendors, recyclers, or for disposal.

At HP, leased, rental, and trade-in equipment returns are brought into the EMRD from various sources. They accept servers, workstations, peripherals, PCs, printers, scanners, and automated test systems. The EMRD staff assist customers with equipment management and disposition. The products are then remanufactured.


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