HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT OF CONSUMER ELECTRONICS IN THE UNITED STATES
Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams, spurred by their rising market and demand. However, these devices contain an array of metals that is recyclable for economic and environmental benefit through secondary manufacturing. As the turnaround rate for newer models quickens, consumers are motivated to purchase novel devices, leaving their current ones behind. Focusing on how United States (U.S.) households manage their electronics, a top-down approach stock and flow STELLA model was created to model the lifecycle of eight common electronics. Input data for the model came from a public online survey directed to U.S. household owning adults. From the model, a metallic stock and flow analysis was conducted to quantify the trends, environmental footprint, and economic value of stored devices in U.S. households and how it compares to devices being used, disposed, and recycled. The number of stored devices in the U.S. was found to be increasing annually with a stored amount of over 757 million stored individual electronic devices, nearly half of which originate from cell phones, carrying an economic value of 32.6 billion US dollars (USD) and carbon emissions of 7.6 billion kilograms (kg) from their metallic components alone for the year 2020. Most of the pollution and economic value stems from precious metals (PMs) and in a circular economy, these stored metals can have a significant impact to the environment and economy through recycled. Also, with advancing capabilities of smartphones, the metallic composition for device components of Samsung galaxy smartphones was quantified to assess their evolving metallic content. With the growing market of electronic devices, knowing the value and importance of devices currently in U.S. households is critical. This underlies the influence of sustainable design through a circular economy to push initiatives to manufacture recyclable friendly devices, expand the metal recycling industry, and motivate citizens to properly handle their stored devices.
- Master of Science in Engineering
- Environmental and Ecological Engineering
- West Lafayette