Congress Resources: Papers, posters and presentations

< Return to abstract list

Identification Of Water Hotspots In The Supply Chain Of A Laptop -- Mitigation Measures

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Assaad Maalouf, Kavitha Nagalingam, Nabeel Shahid, Vasileia Vasilaki, Evina Katsou
Brunel University1, MSc student2, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, Brunel University; Institute for the Environment, Brunel University3

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 9: Water allocation among competing uses and users,
Abstract1. Introduction The world population is projected to reach 11 billion in 2100, in comparison to current 7 billion (The Guardian, 2014). By 2030 water demand is expected to exceed current supply by 40% (Water resources group, 2009). The worldwide personal computer users hit two billion, in 2014 (Gartner, 2014). Approximately 180 million computers are expected to be replaced and 35 million are discarded into landfill. The assessment of the water footprint (WF) is important in supporting corporate water stewardship efforts by providing a decision making tool to measure and understand water use throughout its whole supply chain. Companies have traditionally focused on water use in their operations, but not in their supply chain. However, in the majority of the cases the supply chain WF is much larger than the operational WF (Hoekstra et al., 2013). Water is involved throughout the life cycle of a laptop, from the extraction and refinement of the materials (Gellert, 2014), to the transportation and packaging of the finished product, the usage of the laptop and the waste management once the laptop reaches it end-of-life stage. The goal of the study is to identify water hotspots along the supply chain of a laptop. WF can be an efficient tool for companies to understand their water use and for the consumers to give 'water value' to their personal computer. 2. Methodology To gain an understanding of whether water use is having an impact, the volume of water consumption must be considered with the cumulative effect of all uses of the shared water resources. According to Manhart and Grießhammer (2006), a laptop is made from more than 1,800--2,000 parts and is sourced from hundreds of different suppliers (EICC/BSR, 2010). The supply chain was simplified into a series of phases from 'cradle to grave' (Figure1). The functional unit investigated is a laptop with generalised features, as proposed by Ekener-Perteren and Finnveden (2013). The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) diagram (Figure1) gives an overview of the whole process; therefore it has been modified to include quantitative data, which precisely identifies the potential hotspots in the process. Different stages were considered, in terms of water use.
. Stages involved in the supply chain (life cycle) of a laptop Stage 1 - Resource extraction: Raw materials are extracted from over 100 countries around the world; however, the most characteristic materials are shown in Figure 2. The Engineering Bill of Materials (BOM) is required to identify the list of raw materials required for laptop production (Ekener-Perteren & Finnveden, 2013). The WF is expressed as the volume of water per kg used. Stage 2 - Refining and processing: The primary materials are refined and processed (i.e.smelters and refineries for minerals and refineries) (Ekener-Perteren & Finnveden, 2013). Stage 3 - Manufacturing and assembly: It the most difficult stage to analyse, since it requires multiple steps (single-complex components manufacturing, assembly etc.). The most representative regions are shown in Figure 2 (Resolve; 2010; Manhart and Grießhammer, 2006). WF can be calculated by applying the stepwise accumulative approach introduced by Hoekstra et. al. (2011). Stage 4 - Marketing and sales, use: This is the interaction between the consumers and the market. The laptops are transported from Origin Destination Matrix (ODMs) to the UK for distribution by sales. This entails water consumption by transportation. Use phase is considered to be 5 years, in which water consumed is correlated with energy use. Stage 5 - Recycling and disposal: The exportation of e-waste is restricted by EU laws, unless it meets the WEEE, Directive 2012/19/EU25. There is a total ban in the exportation of e-waste to non-OECD countries after the Basel Convention held in 1989 (Ekener-Perteren & Finnveden, 2013). Thus, recycling and disposal is usually undertaken in the end-user country. On the contrary, despite the legalisation e-waste is illegally exported to developing countries, thus contaminating their ecosystem, moreover, resulting in a larger WF (UNDOC, 2009).
. Life Cycle geographical distribution of a laptop 2. Results & Discussion Hotspot identification through research following the LCA breakdown is essential as it allows for stakeholders to implement measures in order to reduce water consumption. Hotspots were identified along the laptop's supply chain (Table 1). Raw material extraction is a relatively water intensive stage and is responsible for serious contamination of water resources. It is calculated that 12% of the laptops total water consumption is required for the extraction of primary resources. The most significant portion of the industry's WF is associated with semiconductor and LCD manufacturing (Morrison et. al., 2009). The manufacturing process, in general, is the most water intensive accounting for 51% of water consumption, since this is the point where the final product is created. The following mitigation strategies are proposed to reduce the most water intensive stages: (i) A comparison for consumers, so they can make an informed decision on what product to buy. For example, a label could be adapted for use, showing the consumer the most water intensive areas. (ii) A recycling scheme with an incentive, so that consumers can get cash-back if they exchange their old laptop to buy a new one. A sort of scrappage scheme for laptops (iii) Creating laptops with better specifications that do not become redundant quickly (iv) Assuming the plastic parts are the most water intensive, bio-plastics which are less water intensive could be implemented instead. But care needs to be taken to use crops that require low amount of water to grow (v) Standardising the WF methodology, so that all companies follow the same guidelines. (vi) Manufacture all parts required in one location to minimise WF that occurs during transportation. Localised factories should be created to serve different continents. . Water consumption and total WF throughout the whole supply chain of a laptop 3. Conclusions The purpose of this study was to identify water hotspots along the supply chain of a generic laptop. In fact, multiple instances were found, which suggests that the reduction in water consumption during the laptop's life cycle is essential. The production of a personal laptop will consume approximately 38 m3/kg of product. The average laptop is roughly around 5kg. Hence, a conclusion can be drawn that a laptop will consume ~ 190 m3 of water. However, further study should take place to ensure all aspects are covered in terms of the raw material extraction processes, distribution of products from different countries, landfilling, disposal and recycling of the product after the end of the service life has been reached. References 1. Addams, L., Boccaletti, G., Kerlin, M., & Stuchtey, M., 2009. Charting our water future: economic frameworks to inform decision-making. 2030 Water Resources Group: McKinsey & Company World 2. Cola, C., 2010. Product Water Footprint Assessment. 3. EICC/BSR 2010. A practical approach to greening the electronics supply chain. electronic industry citizenship coalition, Washington, USA 4. Ekener-Petersen, E., & Finnveden, G., 2013. Potential hotspots identified by social LCA—Part 1: A case study of a laptop computer. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18(1), 127-143. 5. Gartner, 2014. Bring Your Own Device: The Results and the Future. Gartner Inc.. 6. Gellert, A., 2014. How Do Laptops Affect the Environment ?. Opposing Views . 7. Health Organisation, 2014. Urban population growth. 8. Hoekstra, A.Y., 2013. The water footprint of modern consumer society, Routledge, London, UK. 9. Hoekstra, A.Y., Chapagain, A.K., Aldaya, M., & Mekonnen, M., 2011. The water footprint assessment manual: setting the global standard. (Earthscan, London) 10. Hoekstra, A.Y. and Chapagain, A.K., 2008. Globalization of water: Sharing the planet's freshwater resources, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. 11. Hoekstra A.Y., Chapagain A.K., 2007. Water footprints of nations: Water use by people as a function of their consumption pattern. Water Resour Manage 21:35–48. 12. IVF Industrial Research and Development Corporation, 2007. Lot 3: Personal computers (desktops and laptops) and computer monitors. Final report (task 1-8). preparatory studies for eco-design requirements of EuPs. Report for the European Commission, August 2007. 13. Kahhat, R., Poduri, S., & Williams, E., 2011. Bill of attributes (BOA) in life cycle modeling of laptop computers: results and trends from disassembly studies. Sustainability Consortium White Paper, 103. 14. Manhart, A., & Grießhammer, R., 2006. Social impacts of the production of notebook PCs. Öko-Institut eV, Freiburg, Germany. 15. Morrison, J., Morikawa, M., Murphy, M., & Schulte, P., 2009. Water scarcity & climate change. Ceres and Pacific Institute. 16. The Guardian, 2014. 17. UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2009. Transnational trafficking and the rule of law in West Africa: a threat assessment. 18. WaterWise, 2007. Hidden Waters. Available at:
2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin