Eco-sustainable design strategies act as the liaison between different disciplines and professionals: the world of production and research, companies and the key issues of project development –economics, society, and environment [Lerma, 2014]. Many of the environmental sustainability issues are either directly or indirectly linked to materials and their life cycle [Lin- dahl, Robèrt and Broman, 2014]. Environmental impacts occur at different stages of the life cycle, including the extraction, production, transportation, and processing of raw materials, as at the stage when the product is actually used and disposed of [Vezzoli and Manzini, 2007]. Furthermore, a material can be considered eco-sustainable when it is effectively and efficiently used within a specific project and integrated into the entire application system. Moreover, it comes to environmental sustainability when opting for the use of materials and semi-finished products sourced from areas comparable to that where the company operates [Allione, De Giorgi, Lerma and Petruccelli, 2012]. Therefore, creating a network of contacts in the region able to assist manufacturing companies, particularly SMEs, when selecting their sup- pliers or researching and assessing local partners for processing operations appears as more and more necessary, but this approach cannot be always pursued. Eco-sustainable design strategies play a role of utter importance for the development of innovative sustainable products and production processes [El-Haggar, 2007]. Specifically, in an evolving scenario of increasing dematerialization and greater complexity of objects, several specific materials already in production and those still being field tested, become more meaningful [Ferrara, 2004], such as those precious and not precious ones coming from the e-waste domain. The rapid expansion of technology and, what is more, the programmed obsolescence of these products, means that a very large amount of e-waste is created every year, every day, every minute [Baldé, Forti, Gray, Kuehr, and Stegmann, 2015]. Different materials are present in e-waste: the base metals include iron, copper, aluminum, nickel, zinc, selenium, indium, gallium and precious metals. Hazardous substances that can be found in e-waste include mercury, beryllium, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and antimony instead. In addition, the larger material group consists of plastics, glass, and ceramics [Fornalczyk, Willner, Francuz and Cebulski, 2013], adopted for the case and the outer part of the devices. The availability of these materials generated the new definition of “urban mining” as the activity of recovery materials from urban waste becoming “the mines of the future”, and providing materials for reuse and cutting costs and landfill waste. The recovery of metals and precious metals from electronic waste (e-waste) has been in fact an important topic not only for economic aspect but also for recycling rare natural sources and reducing the e-waste to prevent the environmental pollution, in other terms, following the 7Rs Golden Rule usually adopted for a sustainable waste management [El-Haggar, 2007]: in order to achieve the correct use and application of materials from a green perspective, eco-compatibility must, in fact, be considered when they are chosen as much as when they are at the end of their life. Additionally, today’s materials are smart and encase an inner core of performance and function that could previously only be given by complex systems. Other key elements that have to be taken into account regarding environmental sustainability are the players involved in the design and manufacturing processes, the origin of the resources and the location of the suppliers and manufacturers and the development of further production [Ceppa and Lerma, 2014]. One possible eco-sustainable approach towards the issue of e-waste is offered by Circular Economy [Geissdoerfer, Savaget, Bocken and Hultink, 2016] and the related System Design thinking [Barbero, 2016], suitable for dealing with industrial processes strategically, and aiming at recovery precious second life materials to new applications, both into the same productive chain, or to new ones. With this approach, thousands of electronic appliances (such as audio-visual components, televisions, VCRs, stereo equipment, mobile phones, other handheld devices, and computer components contain valuable elements and substances suitable for reclamation, including lead, silver, copper, and gold) are dismantled, and their materials are divided in order to be conveyed to new productive chains, new production systems, and new proactive industries. Nevertheless, this procedure still doesn’t avoid critical issues. As an example, this process entails social, environmental and legal questions, such as those generated by the uncontrolled movement of e-waste to countries where cheap labor and primitive approaches to recycling have resulted in health risks to local residents exposed to the release of toxins continues to an issue of concern [Ottaviani, 2018]. This investigation presents a panoramic overview, as well as the specific point of view of a material library on the topic. The aim will be showing the most recent data about the global amount of e-waste production, analyzing the potentialities of innovation in terms of sustainable production and Circular Economy applied to the new application fields of these innovative - or renewed – materials in the Italian context; and showing how a material library can be valid support for the already existing SMEs, companies and designers in boosting this virtuous process. On the other hand, the most critical consequences of e-waste recovery are discussed and analyzed, supported also by several case studies taken from the world of design and craftsmanship, dedicated to highlighting this complex issue, showing how eco-sustainable design strategies can really trigger virtuous mechanisms of economic development.

The dark side of high tech precious materials recovery. Overview on the critical issues, opportunities and best practices from a material library point of view / Dal Palù, D.; Coraglia, V.; Lerma, B.. - ELETTRONICO. - (2019), pp. 70-72. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD7) 2018 tenutosi a Torino (Italia) nel 24-26 October 2018.

The dark side of high tech precious materials recovery. Overview on the critical issues, opportunities and best practices from a material library point of view

Dal Palù, D.;Coraglia, V.;Lerma, B.
2019

Abstract

Eco-sustainable design strategies act as the liaison between different disciplines and professionals: the world of production and research, companies and the key issues of project development –economics, society, and environment [Lerma, 2014]. Many of the environmental sustainability issues are either directly or indirectly linked to materials and their life cycle [Lin- dahl, Robèrt and Broman, 2014]. Environmental impacts occur at different stages of the life cycle, including the extraction, production, transportation, and processing of raw materials, as at the stage when the product is actually used and disposed of [Vezzoli and Manzini, 2007]. Furthermore, a material can be considered eco-sustainable when it is effectively and efficiently used within a specific project and integrated into the entire application system. Moreover, it comes to environmental sustainability when opting for the use of materials and semi-finished products sourced from areas comparable to that where the company operates [Allione, De Giorgi, Lerma and Petruccelli, 2012]. Therefore, creating a network of contacts in the region able to assist manufacturing companies, particularly SMEs, when selecting their sup- pliers or researching and assessing local partners for processing operations appears as more and more necessary, but this approach cannot be always pursued. Eco-sustainable design strategies play a role of utter importance for the development of innovative sustainable products and production processes [El-Haggar, 2007]. Specifically, in an evolving scenario of increasing dematerialization and greater complexity of objects, several specific materials already in production and those still being field tested, become more meaningful [Ferrara, 2004], such as those precious and not precious ones coming from the e-waste domain. The rapid expansion of technology and, what is more, the programmed obsolescence of these products, means that a very large amount of e-waste is created every year, every day, every minute [Baldé, Forti, Gray, Kuehr, and Stegmann, 2015]. Different materials are present in e-waste: the base metals include iron, copper, aluminum, nickel, zinc, selenium, indium, gallium and precious metals. Hazardous substances that can be found in e-waste include mercury, beryllium, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and antimony instead. In addition, the larger material group consists of plastics, glass, and ceramics [Fornalczyk, Willner, Francuz and Cebulski, 2013], adopted for the case and the outer part of the devices. The availability of these materials generated the new definition of “urban mining” as the activity of recovery materials from urban waste becoming “the mines of the future”, and providing materials for reuse and cutting costs and landfill waste. The recovery of metals and precious metals from electronic waste (e-waste) has been in fact an important topic not only for economic aspect but also for recycling rare natural sources and reducing the e-waste to prevent the environmental pollution, in other terms, following the 7Rs Golden Rule usually adopted for a sustainable waste management [El-Haggar, 2007]: in order to achieve the correct use and application of materials from a green perspective, eco-compatibility must, in fact, be considered when they are chosen as much as when they are at the end of their life. Additionally, today’s materials are smart and encase an inner core of performance and function that could previously only be given by complex systems. Other key elements that have to be taken into account regarding environmental sustainability are the players involved in the design and manufacturing processes, the origin of the resources and the location of the suppliers and manufacturers and the development of further production [Ceppa and Lerma, 2014]. One possible eco-sustainable approach towards the issue of e-waste is offered by Circular Economy [Geissdoerfer, Savaget, Bocken and Hultink, 2016] and the related System Design thinking [Barbero, 2016], suitable for dealing with industrial processes strategically, and aiming at recovery precious second life materials to new applications, both into the same productive chain, or to new ones. With this approach, thousands of electronic appliances (such as audio-visual components, televisions, VCRs, stereo equipment, mobile phones, other handheld devices, and computer components contain valuable elements and substances suitable for reclamation, including lead, silver, copper, and gold) are dismantled, and their materials are divided in order to be conveyed to new productive chains, new production systems, and new proactive industries. Nevertheless, this procedure still doesn’t avoid critical issues. As an example, this process entails social, environmental and legal questions, such as those generated by the uncontrolled movement of e-waste to countries where cheap labor and primitive approaches to recycling have resulted in health risks to local residents exposed to the release of toxins continues to an issue of concern [Ottaviani, 2018]. This investigation presents a panoramic overview, as well as the specific point of view of a material library on the topic. The aim will be showing the most recent data about the global amount of e-waste production, analyzing the potentialities of innovation in terms of sustainable production and Circular Economy applied to the new application fields of these innovative - or renewed – materials in the Italian context; and showing how a material library can be valid support for the already existing SMEs, companies and designers in boosting this virtuous process. On the other hand, the most critical consequences of e-waste recovery are discussed and analyzed, supported also by several case studies taken from the world of design and craftsmanship, dedicated to highlighting this complex issue, showing how eco-sustainable design strategies can really trigger virtuous mechanisms of economic development.
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