Investigating the potential circularity of a phone using Life Cycle Assessment

Circular economy business models commonly target ways to close resource loops for a product or system. Life cycle assessment (LCA) can be used to assess if the actions also imply other environmental benefits. Using a mobile phone as a case study this report first assesses the linear product to determine hotspots in the life cycle. From these results, three circular business models targeting several circular component solutions were chosen and assessed using LCA.

Summary

This report presents a life cycle assessment (LCA) case study of a mobile phone. The work is part of the POLICIA project where the overarching goal is to combine LCA and an economic-based model (POLICA CE model) into an integrated assessment. The aim of this model is to identify market failures and quantify policy effects of efficient combinations along the entire life cycle.

The objective of the phone case study work is to enable the impact assessment of the LCA, to be incorporated into the POLICIA CE-model, so that environmental impacts of policies can be directly modelled and optimised. To achieve this, linear and circular variants of products were assessed to identify the components and life cycle stages that influence the environmental impact.  

The materials and part production stages of the life cycle contribute most to the environmental impact, for all studied impact categories. Specifically, it is the integrated circuit and other electronic components that contribute most. This is turn implies that circular business models aimed at prolonging life or decreasing use of these components can provide the largest impact reductions. 

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Last updated: 2021-05-24

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has a wide environmental profile. We combine applied research and development with close collaboration between industry and the public sphere. Our consultancy is evidence-based, and our research is characterized by interdisciplinary science and system thinking.

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