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06/24/03

Product Life Cycle Environmental Impact and Risk Evaluation



Basic rule for efficient and sustainable resource and environmental quality management = minimize cumulative product life cycle risks and environmental impacts. The product life cycle system defines the material and energy flows and conversions in the total life cycle of a product. It can be organized into five basic subsystems or segments:

1. Raw Materials Procurement

2. Manufacturing

3. Consumer Use

4. Resource Recovery

5. Disposal

The risks and environmental impacts associated with the product life cycle include:
- virgin raw materials consumption

- energy consumption

- air pollutant emissions

- water pollutant discharges

- hazardous waste generation

- nonhazardous waste generation

- radioactive waste generation

- industrial accidents

- occupational safety and health risks

- consumer safety and health risks

- ecological degradation

The life cycle framework provides a systematic method to evaluate risks and environmental impacts associated with the flow and conversion of material and energy throughout the system. Applications of the product life cycle framework include: 1) consumer product comparative risk and environmental impact assessment, 2) product and process design guidelines to minimize risks and impacts, 3) product labeling and 4) policy making.

Do prices of consumer products reflect true social, and environmental costs? Two important market failures that lead to inefficient resource and environmental quality management are 1) externalities, which are costs born by society that are not included in the price of a good or service (e.g., industrial pollution and the disposal of consumer products); and 2) lack of information about risks and environmental impacts for the consumer.

References

From the "Diaper Dilemma", Michigan Consumer Education Conference, 1990, presented by Greg A. Keoleian, Research Fellow in the School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan.

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This information is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned. This information becomes public property upon publication and may be printed verbatim with credit to MSU Extension. Reprinting cannot be used to endorse or advertise a commercial product or company.

MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer. Michigan State University Extension programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status. Issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thomas G. Coon, Director, MSU Extension, East Lansing,MI 48824. This information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or bias against those not mentioned.

This information.was reviewed as of June 2008.  For more information about the contents please contact costner@msu.edu for webpage problems strausc@msu.edu .