Sustainable Development And Concepts Engineering Essay

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Recent producer responsibility legislation such as the ELV and WEEE European. Directives are aimed at reducing the quantity of waste from such products sent to landfill at the end of their life. Discuss the nature of these directives and what their implications are for the design of affected products and for their manufacturing supply chains.


As the exploitation of technology and natural resources grow, we are either directly or indirectly affecting our environment, we live in. Thus making the 'mother earth' an uninhabitable place for life. It is the mistake of the human race, which not only endanger human beings, but also endangers the life of other innocent species on earth. We continue to live in a fast depleting and harmful place.

Many countries are concerned about the fast deterioration of the environment and the natural resources. The effect is not only the above said areas, but also on the economic and socio-political development of the each country. The effects of these are priceless and some of the statistics are given below. ("Towards Sustainability: the need and the journey", Roger Saillant, 2004)

According to a UN study, there are about 150 dead zones in ocean, around the world. This covers the total dead area of about 70,000 square miles. This is expected to increase in number and eventually in size as well. [1]

The earth is losing its species diversity at rate, which is 1000 to 10000 times more than the natural rate. [2]

The concentration of the atmospheric CO2 has increased by 18.9% between 1959 and 2003. This green house gas density is 25% higher than it was 4 lakh years ago. [3]

Sustainable Development: Definition

There are many definitions for sustainable development, the most popular definition is known as the Brundtland Report, which is given below. [4]

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

The concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and

The idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."

There is another definition, which defines the Sustainable Development concept as "interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars" of sustainbale development as economic development, social development and environmental protection. [5]

According to Hasna Vancock, sustainability is a process which tells of a development of all aspects of human life affecting sustenance. It means resolving the conflict between the various competing goals, and involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity famously known as three dimensions (triple bottom line) with the resultant vector being technology, hence it is a continually evolving process; the 'journey' (the process of achieving sustainability) is of course vitally important, but only as a means of getting to the destination (the desired future state). However, the 'destination' of sustainability is not a fixed place in the normal sense that we understand destination. Instead, it is a set of wishful characteristics of a future system. [6]

Almost all the definitions emphasizes that the world should be treated as a single system and the actions which we do today will affect the future generations. It should be the responsibilities of each and every producer, manufacturer, designer, etc to act adopt the concept of sustainable development.

Sustainable Concepts

The main aim of the sustainable development is to protect and control the resources around the world. There are several concepts that aid achieving the sustainability. Those are either a tool or strategies or ideas. Some of the sustainable development concepts are given below:

Cleaner Production


Zero Emissions

Strategic Impact Assessment

Lifecycle Analysis

Environmental Management Systems

Environmental Impact Assessment

Ecological Footprints

Government Legislations

Government has taken several measures to improve and create awareness on the sustainable development. Especially, governments of European countries have framed much legislation on sustainable development. The government or the legislative body has formulated many environmental laws and regulations approaches to address the sustainable development effectively. In the case of release of pollutants into the environment, there are several emission and environmental quality standards implemented by the government. The main of those standards are to minimise the harmful effects of these pollutants to both the humans and the environment.

There are many approaches through which the government is acting in this regard. One of which is the command and control approach. [7]

Command and control

Substance - wise approach - various standards are set for each substance to minimise its impact on the environment. For example, printed circuit boards have its own regulations to minimise its impact on the environment.

Sector - wise approach - Governments set environmental regulations for those industries, which are considered as high pollution causing industries.

Pollution control - provides regulations on air, water and soil pollution and controlling the pollutants and minimising the impact on the environment.

Producer's responsibility - this approach aims to minimise the amount of waste ending up in the landfill, by making the manufacturer or producer to take the responsibility of their products when they come to their end of usable life period. Some of the major directives in this approach are the End-of-life Vehicle directives (ELV) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives.

Waste Management

UK produces enough waste to fill Lake Windermere in one year. One ton of paper from recycled pulp saves 17 trees, 3 cubic metre of landfill space, 4200 kWh, 7000 gallons of water and 390 gallons of oil. [7] Landfill is the space or area, mainly for the purpose of disposal of waste.

The wastes are classified in several categories. They are shown in the below table 1.4.1


Included Wastes

Uncontrolled Wastes

Agricultural Wastes, Inert wastes, Mining and quarrying wastes

Municipal Solid Wastes

Household and commercial/industrial wastes

Clinical Wastes

All human and animal tissues, blood, surgical dressings, syringes, surgery implements, microbiological cultures, etc.

Hazardous and Special Wastes

Explosives or harmful substances

Table 1.4.1 Classification of Wastes

EU government has passed legislation on the Landfill (EU landfill directive 2002). [7] According to this directive, the landfills will be classified into three major categories. They are given below:

Landfill for hazardous wastes

Landfill for non-hazardous wastes and

Landfill for inert waste.

The biologically degradable wastes will be separated away from the landfills. Some of the hazardous wastes will be prohibited from ending up in the landfills. Liquid wastes will also be prohibited from entering into the landfills. This is because of the potential of any liquid to flow around the landfill areas. This liquid flow may cause some potential problems. Other types of wastes that are prohibited from ending up in the landfill zones are explosives, highly flammable wastes, corrosive wastes [8]. Infectious wastes that produced as result of the medical procedures. This includes both human and veterinary medical procedures. The tyres in whole form or in shredded form are banned from the landfill areas. Other wastes which do not come under any of the defined category are banned from entering the landfill as well.

All the wastes that enter the landfill should be pre-treated. This will be an important and compulsory action before those wastes are brought to the landfills. Apart from the regulations, mentioned above, the landfill directive will aim to reduce the number of hazardous waste sites.

The above mentioned directives in conjunction with the End of life vehicles (ELV) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), imposes lots of pressure on the producers (or the manufacturers) and make them responsible for the disposal of their products, when their products becomes unusable.

Further in this report, the nature and the implications of the Producer responsibility legislations End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) are discussed.

Producer Responsible Directives

End of Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive

In Europe, there are approximately 9 million vehicles meeting their end of life each year [9]. Nearly 75% of the vehicles can be recycled and reused, consequently 25% of them end up in landfills [9]. To address the above mentioned issues, the European government passed the End of Life Vehicle Directive on September 18, 2000. [10] The government aims to reduce the percentage of vehicle wastes ending up in the landfills, by bringing up the regulations for the manufacturers.

Nature of the ELV Directive

According to this End of Life Vehicles Directive, it is the producer's responsibility to take back the vehicle that is not in a usable condition and reuse or recycle, to the possible extent. This is only for those vehicles, which are produced after the year 2007. [7] The vehicle manufacturers or the vehicle importers are considered as the producers. Government pressurised the automobile manufacturers to increase the percentage of recycling of vehicle and achieve higher recovery rates.

Producers or the manufacturers need to pay whole or a part of the amount of the cost that is needed to take back and dispose the vehicles. Producers, dismantlers and shredders should have proper facility and systems for the collection, recycling or reusing the ELVs from the customer.

The end of life vehicles directive has set a recovery target for all the ELVs, which are given below: [7]

85% of by January 2006 (minimum recycling)

95% by January 2015 (minimum 85% recycling)

The materials flow in End of Life Vehicle directive is shown in the figure 2.1.1. [9] Form each end of life vehicle, the pollutants are removed first and then allowed for the dismantling process. The parts of the vehicle can be sent back to the manufacturers for reuse. Once the parts are removed the body is shredded. Here is this process, the 75% of the metals are obtained and sent to the steel mills or melting factories, where it is melted and sent back to the manufacturers as raw materials.. the remaining materials form the shredder are further processed (if necessary) to make it inert and sent to the landfill.

Figure 2.1.1: Materials Flow in ELV Directive [9]

In Germany, there were few basic technical requirements that were laid down by the German government for the proper disposal of ELVs. These are given below: [9]

Measures for deconstruction and drainage

Removal of specific parts

Inclusion of liquids taken and parts removed in reuse or recycling

The inclusion of 15% of total weight of an ELV in reutilisation.

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), the number of end of life vehicles abandoned during the year 2000 was more than 200,000 [9]. This number rose drastically in the next two years. This was mainly due to the then low price of the metal and high scrapping cost. After the implementation of the ELV directive, this number started decreasing, since then. However, because of the high scrap metal price, the network for collection introduced the free take back. The number of end of life vehicles abandoned in 2006 was approximately 65,000. [9] This is lesser when compared to that of in the year 2000.

The end of life vehicles directive, brought in the year 2005, introduced the guidelines to achieve the producer's responsibility. According to this, the producers need to sign a contract with an Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATF), recycling and reprocessing industries. And this network of industries needs to be approved by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). [11]

Implications of the ELV Directive

After the implementation of the ELV directive, there was a drastic reduction in the number of abandoned vehicles each year. The number of recycled materials has also increased in the subsequent years. This ELV directive is driven by various factors such as economic, technological, social and most importantly the environmental factors. The perspective of the automobile manufacturers has changed towards developing sustainable products and recycling, reusing or remanufacturing of their ELVs. The automobile manufacturers consider the recycling options for their end of life vehicles among the materials used to manufacture their vehicles and reuse the components that were used during the assembly of the vehicle. The material composition used in a vehicle has been changing towards more sustainable materials that can be recycled and reused easily. Mainly the usage aluminium and other polymeric components were increased.

Since the implementation of the ELV directive 2003, the legislative body have issued around 1,400 licenses to the Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATF) [11]. The recycling or end of life vehicle treating facility should only be carried out by the authorised dealers. There were also many instances during this period, where many treating facilities were operating illegally, without the government approval. These illegal operators include vehicle parts dismantlers, scrap yards, secondary metal merchants for ELVs, etc. there is an estimated number of around 2,500 illegal operators in the year 2003 [11]. All these operators were either fined or banned.

There are various parts that can be recovered, recycled ad reused from the ELVs. This includes metals, non-metals, tyres, oils or fluids, plastics, polymers, foams, etc. In UK the total percentage of parts recovered from the ELVs, in the year 2004 is given in the below table 2.1.2

Recovered/recycled/reused Parts of ELV

Percentage %

Metallic parts




Non-metallic parts




Oils/ Fluids




Table 2.1.2 Percentage of Parts recovered from ELVs, in 2004 (Source: DTI, 2007)

The perspective of the automotive industry has changed a lot and it has oriented towards developing sustainable designs. This directive has made the automotive industry to address the problem right from the design phase of the manufacturing process. As a result of this the following changes have been observed in the automotive design: [12]

There is a considerable amount of change in the material composition designed/produced in the new cars.

There was an increase in usage of the environmentally friendly materials that can be easily recycled.

There was a definite increase in use of recycled materials.

Harmful materials or banned materials were removed from the design.

There was an increase in design for disassembly, reuse and remanufacture.

Provisions for the below information, were also implemented:

Part coding standards

Knowledge on various processes such as disassembly, disposal and recovery of vehicle parts.

Advantages of ELV Directive

There are various advantages to the environment, economy and socio-political wise, because of the implementation of the ELV directive. Some of them are given below:

Number of automotive wastes ending up in the landfill has reduced.

Harmful materials usage in the automotive design was banned or reduced.

Obtaining the raw material from the ELVs is easy compared to obtaining the raw material from its ores. Example: separation of aluminium from the ELV is more energy efficient than producing the aluminium from its natural ores. [13]

There was a considerable amount of innovation in the recycling, reusing and remanufacturing processes.

This kind of directives can be applied for other industries as well.

The overall design of the automobiles have evolved and moving towards sustainable design.

Disadvantages of the ELV Directive

There are quite a few disadvantages identified for this directive. Some of them are, the automotive manufacturers are forced to bear, either whole or big share of the cost of disposal of the end of life vehicles. The vehicles produced before the directive was passed, were exempted from this ban. This might cause problems to the replacement parts of those vehicles, since some of the parts might be banned or no longer available. The current recycling regulations are entirely weight based. 1 kilogram of one material does not have the same impact, on environment, as 1 kilogram of another material. Hence, the regulation can be further revised and dealt accordingly with the criticality of each material.

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipments (WEEE) Directive

Nature of the WEEE Directive

As the innovation and rapid development in technology increases, there are many electrical and electronic products enter the social life of a person. Most of these products have a very little usable life span. This is due to the poor quality or the advent of new and advanced products in the market. This causes an increase in the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipments. The electrical and electronic products are one of the fast growing sectors in today's world. In Europe, a recent estimation found that annually there is waste of 6.5 million tonnes of WEEE ending up in landfills. It is also estimated that this number will rise to 12 million tonnes by the end of 2015 [14]. This is around 14kg per person per year. [15]

The regulations on the WEEE products are aimed to reduce the number of waste electrical and electronic equipments ending up in the landfills at their end of life and encouraging the recycling, reusing and remanufacturing of such products. It also provides specific requirements for the treatment of these products. It is one of the Producer Responsible directives, where the manufacturers have to bear the whole or big share in the disposal of the WEEEs.

This WEEE directive sets measures for the following procedures of all the WEEEs at their end of life:




Recycling and


The cost for the above procedures has to be beared by the manufacturers or the producers. It also ensures that these products are recycled or reused in an environmentally safe way.

The WEEE directive ensures the reduction of health risks and the environmental hazards from the harmful substances used in the EEEs, by reusing or substituting those equipments with safe materials or comparatively safer materials.

The different types of materials commonly seen in the WEEEs are represented graphically in the figure 2.2.1 below.

Figure 2.2.1: Typical material fractions in WEEE. Adapted from Widmer et al. (2005).

Some of the products or equipments that are covered under this directive are given below:

IT & Telecommunication equipments

Consumer EE equipments

Electric and electronic tools

Electric and electronic toys

Sports equipments

Control equipments

Large and small household equipments

Automatic dispensers

Lighting equipments

Implications of the WEEE Directive

The WEEE directive has lead to many changes in the electrical and electronic equipment manufacturing industries. The core design of each and every EEEs are designed to meet the sustainable standards. After all, the producers are the ones who are going to pay for its disposal, recycling or reusing of those products produced. It also brought changes in the recycling process of electrical and electronic scraps. These legislations have influenced the development of the innovation of the treatment systems for the WEE Equipments.

There have been special locations where the WEEEs are collected. These are Designated Collection Facility (DCF) sites. These sites are operated by the refurbishment industry, or the reuse industry, or the retailers, or the shopping centres or the producers. The waste EEEs are collected according to the set of guidelines preset by the legislation.

The major implications of the waste electrical and electronics equipment legislation are given below:

The products are designed to meet the sustainability standards.

The number of EEE wastes ending up in the landfill has been reduced.

Lots of recycling methods have been developed especially for the electrical and electronic equipments.

Products are designed with the life of the products taken into consideration.

The methods to take back the WEEEs are pre-determined before it comes to the market.

The effective reuse, recycle of the materials or components used in the WEEE is predetermined.

The EEE manufacturing concerns have to produce information to the government on the number of EEEs sold and number collected. To the dismantlers, the company has to provide information on the methods to dismantle the EEEs and notify if there is any hazardous material used in the EEE. To the users, the company has to provide information on the service period of the EEEs and what to do with the WEEEs, once it reaches its end of life. It is also important that the producers, should inform the users on not to throw the WEEEs on the waste bin, instead it has to given to the proper Designated Collection Facility (DCF).

Advantages of WEEE Directive

The major advantages of WEEE directive are given below:

The amount of WEEEs ending up in the landfill has been reduced.

The environmental hazards because of the WEEEs are reduced.

There were new technologies emerging in the area of recycling, reusing the materials in the WEEE.

New techniques to design electrical and electronic equipments that are both ecologically and economically viable.

It improves good waste management skills.

People tend to learn, recognize and save the repairable materials in the WEEEs.

Disadvantages of WEEE Directive

Though there are huge advantages for the WEEE directive, there are some disadvantages identified for this directive. From the transportation perspective, the transporting the WEEE might cause environmental hazards like pollution, noise, traffic jams or even large amount of energy consumed [14]. A result shows that the recycling processes sorting and dismantling process of a WEEE is of least interest of the companies [16].


The ELV directive has been successfully implemented across many countries. It has definitely reduced the number of ELVs entering the landfills and encouraged the recycling and reusing the vehicle parts and the materials. The directive also removed the confusion of the question of responsibility of the wastes. It has identified that the people who left the product in the market are the ones who should be responsible for its disposal or recycle as well. The legislation has set clear targets for the future and is moving positively towards its goal. Some of the major targets have been reducing the number of abandoned vehicles, number of ELVs ending up in landfills, etc. As expected by the legislation, this has been achieved and the numbers are decreasing. The WEEE directive aims to reduce the amount of WEEEs ending up in the landfills. Thus, preventing the hazardous and harmful materials from polluting the environment. It encourages sustainable approach to design and manufacturing.

To conclude, both the producer responsible directives (ELV and WEEE directives), if followed sincerely, proves to be economical and environmental friendly. The recycling of the materials will save the fast depleting new materials available on earth. This will obviously increases the economic and social sustainability. ELV and WEEE aims to reduce the negative impacts caused by the end of life vehicles and the waste electrical and electronic equipments, respectively, to the environment. The cost of the reused or recycled in market needs to be competitive with the virgin materials [7]. If the ELV Directive is properly followed, it could result in good profits. The implementation of both the directives proved to be clearly advantageous.