Pollution Prevention Through Life Cycle Design
Product design offers tremendous opportunities for achieving pollution prevention. Through integration of environmental requirements into the earliest stages of product development, adverse environmental impacts can be reduced or eliminated in the manufacture, use, and end-of-life management of a product. Pollution prevention by design is the antithesis of "end-of-pipe" treatment or remedial action. Accordingly, it can provide significant benefits including enhanced resource efficiency, reduced liabilities, and enhanced competitiveness. Many organizational and operational changes, however, must take place both internal and external to a product manufacturer to effectively guide environmental improvement through design.
The design of a product system can be represented logically as a series of decisions and choices made individually and collectively by design participants. These choices range from the selection of materials and manufacturing processes to choices relating to shape, form, and function of the product. A design team represents a wide range of functional responsibilities including industrial design, process engineering, product development management, accounting, purchasing, marketing, human and ecosystem health, safety, and regulatory compliance. Each decision or choice made by these team members during development and implementation will shape the overall environmental profile of the product system.
Existing knowledge and experience guide individual and group design decisions. Both new information and new approaches to synthesizing and evaluating this information are essential to achieve pollution prevention through design. Recognizing that no single design method has universal appeal, this chapter offers guidelines rather than prescriptions. These guidelines are based on the life-cycle design framework developed by the author for the Pollution Prevention Branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).