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Environmental Product Development Combining the Life Cycle Perspective with Chemical Hazard Information.

Concerns regarding the short- and long-term detrimental effects of chemicals on human health and ecosystems have made the minimisation of chemical hazards a vitally important issue. If sustainable development is to be achieved, environmental efficient products (and product life cycles) are essential. Many life cycle assessments of product systems are performed without the inclusion of toxicity data and indicators. Ecodesign processes for products are often based upon just one, or very few, environmental indicators. Regulatory issues are sometimes addressed in an ad hoc fashion, often late in the design or redesign process. This thesis concerns marrying the life cycle perspective with chemical hazard information, in order to advance the practice of environmental product development, and hence takes further steps towards sustainable development.

The need to consider the full value chain for the life cycle of products meant that systems theory and systems engineering principles were important in this work. Life cycle assessment methodology was important for assessing environmental impacts for case products. The new European regulation for chemicals (REACH) provided the main driver for regulatory considerations – understanding and linking REACH to life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) was a central theme of the work. The research encompassed regulatory toxicology and its links to the REACH regulation and LCIA.

The research was based on empirical data for products and scenarios of interest to partner companies (in coatings manufacture and in seating production). Two product development tools have been developed. These tools were a result of collaborative processes, thus ensuring their practical usefulness and their direct applicability to the partners’ strategic product development processes. These case studies and company collaboration led to the development of a model that clearly links the tools developed to the Ecodesign process. The model for this interactive, iterative use of these tools for decision support, from early stage in the design process, is widely applicable for companies across industries. The inclusion of these tools in decision support for Ecodesign will facilitate the integration of a life cycle perspective and chemical hazard information within environmental product development.

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