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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Previous projects > Environment > Getting the jump on mandatory recycling
Graphic element Getting the jump on mandatory recycling
As national regulations with regard to landfills become more stringent, companies are now being forced to find alternative methods for disposal of their high-tech scrap. "Cradle to grave" liability laws have in effect forced changes not only in how materials are disposed of, but in how they are engineered and manufactured. A European research project brought together a group of large manufacturers of electrical appliances who laid the groundwork for a new software package called DEMROP, a Product Data Management (PDM) tool for the assessment and optimisation of the recyclability of new products. DEMROP helps to reduce both recycling costs and the volume of end-of-life waste. Project partner Siemens Business Services is currently dealing with a modest 12 clients, but that number is expected to rise dramatically once pending recyclability regulations come into effect across Europe.

Today, for every three computers purchased, two become obsolete. By 2005, the ratio will be one to one, at which point we will be disposing of computers as quickly as we make them. Planning for ease of disassembly and calculating the economics of reusing recycled electronic materials as against simply throwing them away is rapidly becoming the only intelligent option. Consumer demand for recyclable products has also become a factor in many EU countries, and further regulations will soon require European manufactures to take back old appliances at the end of their lifetime. Recyclability of computers and electrical appliances has become a prime consideration which starts with the design phase.

A comprehensive software tool

Traditionally, any consideration of product recyclability has been rather intuitive and unsystematic and has not taken into account all the relevant technical and economic factors. Although some software tools have been implemented, generally speaking they have not been up to the task.
This project was the first step in the development of a comprehensive software tool for recyclability assessment and optimisation. Designed for a Windows-based PC environment and targeted at manufacturers of electrical appliances and companies providing recycling services, the DEMROP software system consists of three main components. First, a recycling knowledge base includes databases on materials, components, disassembly and process issues as well as market groups. Second, a product-modelling component comprises lists of parts and materials, enabling the creation of disassembly diagrams. Finally, a product evaluation component allows determination of recycling costs, disassembly strategies and recycling quotas.

The DEMROP system

The DEMROP evaluation is based on a product description including the parts list, details on the material contents of parts, and information about assembly and disassembly methods and paths.
Once the user has supplied the parts list, the system can identify target components based on materials compatibility analysis. Only those parts which are relevant for recycling are considered for disassembly. Thus, DEMROP sorts the listed parts into two categories: economically valuable parts to be recovered, and obstructive parts which have to be disposed of.
From there, a graphic editor allows the user to indicate diagrammatically possible disassembly access paths to the target components. It is only necessary to model those operations required for accessing such target components. Labour times and costs for disassembly are then automatically assigned based on the number and types of operations to be carried out. For each target component, the system determines the optimal disassembly model by comparing obtainable recycling benefits against the costs of their disassembly. DEMROP calculates the potential recycling benefits and determines the most economical recycling or disposal model.
DEMROP is an easy-to-use, highly flexible and adaptable tool offering both economic and environmental benefits. Users can introduce variations in product or assembly data, thus generating and comparing different design alternatives before a product actually goes into production, ultimately reducing recycling costs, improving recycling efficiency, increasing material recovery and reducing waste.
Through interfaces with CAD or PDM systems, the effort required to enter product data can be substantially reduced. Evaluations and recycling reports can be integrated into the company's documentation and further processed if needed. Customer-specific interfaces, e.g. for suppliers or recyclers, can also be developed on demand. Finally, the DEMROP recycling database, also called the DEMROP infoware, can be obtained from external providers and updated and accessed via the internet. This is essential in that it allows the system to maintain the most accurate and up-to-date market prices for comparing different recycling models.

An assured market

Siemens Business Services are now poised to strike in the run-up to new recycling legislation, offering their industrial clients a broad range of consulting and technical support services. Much will depend on what happens once the new European and, for that matter, North American legislation is passed. Market surveys show potential sales in the millions of euro within just few years of the expected regulatory changes.

Cordis RCN: 17758
More information (Cordis database)
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