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Improving E-waste Recovery with Energy Efficiency Information of Products

Ng, Yen Ting* 1, 2 , Lee, Hui Mien 1 , Lu, Wen Feng 2 , Jonathan Low, Sze Choong 1, 2

1 Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, A*STAR, Singapore 2 National University of Singapore, Singapore

* Corresponding Author,, +6590047328


Energy efficiency is one of the critical parameters to determine e-waste recovery feasibility in order to improve resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production. Thus, a proper assessment of product efficiency is necessary to achieve optimal end-of-life (EoL) product recovery strategy. This paper proposes a generic method to assess the product efficiency based on energy efficiency analysis and reliability analysis. The assessment leads to identifying residual value of EoL product before any recovery decision is made. A near perfect efficient product or component could be reused, on the other hand, recovery option for inefficient part would be decided based on its efficiency, residual value and reliability. With the accurate EoL product status assessment, e-waste recovery could be enhanced by retaining the materials and energy embedded in EoL product. The proposed e-waste recovery methodology is prime important to industry. It aids product designer, manufacturer and policy maker work toward a better environmental decision making for resource efficiency and a sustainable economic growth.



E-waste refers to item of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that is discarded by the holder into any waste collection system [1], which is also called waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). According to UNEP, 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste have been generated each year. The amount is estimated to be double in next decade. Moreover, generation of e-waste is growing 3 times faster than any other type of municipal waste on global level. The rapid growth of e-waste in last few decades is mainly because of prosperous growth in electronic and electrical industries and the fast advancement of technologies. Consequently, the quick growing development affects consumption habits. Life cycle of products gets shorter and resulting in escalating e- waste. This has resulted in replacing EEE products which still have a long life span. Furthermore, majority of the e-waste are ended up in landfills or incinerators. In US, about 75-80% of e-waste ready for EoL management ended up in landfills [2]. It has now become one of the fastest growing waste components in municipal solid waste stream, and it could be a source of hazardous waste that adding to environmental burden and human health risk [3-8]. To make things worse, we are extracting 50% more resources than our planet can replenish today [9, 10]. E-waste covers from large and small household appliances, IT and telecommunications equipment, consumer and lighting equipment, electrical and electronic tools, toys, leisure and sports equipment,

medical devices, monitoring and control instruments and automatic dispensers. In this article, solution to improve e-waste recovery refers to household appliances (Category 1 and 2 in WEEE Directive [11]), particularly in electromechanical product.

Due to the prime environmental advantages, appropriate management for EoL products is essential [2-4, 7, 8, 12-15]. A novel method for electromechanical goods recovery based on knowledge of product energy efficiency is presented in this paper. Energy efficiency is one of the key performance indicators in high energy consumption appliances. For instance, the use of air conditioner in residential home consumes significant energy resources and produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions largely. By replacing a newer, more efficient unit will use less power, accordingly, less GHG emissions at power plant and consumer’s energy cost will be reduced. However, production of new unit requires more energy, which in turn generates more GHG emissions. This research explores how the decision making to recover the embedded energy and material from EoL product. Section 2 presents the outline of product life cycle framework for electromechanical goods and the methodology. Section 3 covers the role of energy efficiency and section 4 explains the reliability in EoL strategy. Solution to solve electromechanical waste will be discussed and followed by conclusion.


The Methodology

Distributor Use EoL Collection Sorting Manufacturing Reassembly Product / component reliability Design Residual value Good Reuse
Product / component reliability
Residual value
Hazardous material
Energy efficiency assessment
Information flow

Figure 1 Product life cycle framework for electromechanical product

Figure 1 shows the product life cycle framework for

electromechanical product. In the framework,


shows that each stage has effects on the total environmental performance of a product. For example, extraction of material, production, transportation, EoL collection and so on use up energy, and emit certain amount of GHG to the environment. Due to the fact that design stage has the strongest influence on environmental impact, it should consider of all the environmental consequences in whole product life cycle before any commitment in manufacturing [16]. This paper proposed a closed-loop system by connecting the knowledge learned from product recovery (as shaded in Figure 1) to the design stage as common sharing platform. Often, the life cycle for most products is

primarily linear, which starts from design process, material extraction, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, use, and end with disposal in landfill or incinerator. And commonly, product information lost after distribution phase. Hence, the novelty for this framework is able to feedback the knowledge from product recovery process to design process. With the knowledge of EoL consequences in mind, designer could enhance total environmental performances of a product in the next product design cycle. On top of that, the closed-loop system is feasible to restrain valuable materials and energy by bringing used product or component back to the secondary market. Thereby, it improves the environment and economic performances of electromechanical product.

Design Phase

Identify product configuration Accelerated life testing Identify critical breakdown component Determine relationship/ severity
Identify product
Accelerated life testing
Identify critical
breakdown component
relationship/ severity

Generate product/








2 The Methodology Distributor Use EoL Collection Sorting Manufacturing Reassembly Product / component reliability Design Residual
EoL Phase Collection Sorting Verify product configuration Assess product status Identify critical breakdown component Determine relationship/
EoL Phase
Verify product
Assess product status
Identify critical
breakdown component
relationship/ severity
Residual value
Dismantle Mechanical Electrical Hazardous material Moderate Good Poor Very poor Remanufacture Reuse Recycle Disposal
Hazardous material
Very poor

Figure 2 Product assessment flow

Figure 2 shows the assessment flow of new product (in the left column) and EoL product (in the right column). During the design stage, product features will be configured. For instance, an electromechanical product consists of electronics, optics, software, mechanical components and other sub-systems. In this study, accelerated life testing (ALT) will be carried out on a new product until it fails, with various sensors attach on the critical parts at different locations. During the experiment, piezoelectric accelerometer sensor will measure the vibration, microphone will measure the unwanted noise and temperature sensor will measure the dissipated heat. The study also includes data analysis and development of Mathematical model for waste energy of the product. With the known input electrical energy, output energy and modeled waste energy, product efficiency could be identified. After the statistical analysis, product failure mode would be determined based on the criticality of component breakdown, and also the severity effects of other components. Finally, product or component characteristics based on recovery time, cost, available technology, labor and equipment could be generated and stored as database. This new-to-fail profile would guide manufacturers benchmark the product status when the product returns.

The EoL product will be going through same assessment flow, starting from verification of the product configuration, followed by product status assessment with the same experiment set up in design stage. The collected data will be compared to the database to evaluate product performances and its severity. Then the residual value in terms of remaining useful life [17, 18] and efficiency could be determined. The high residual value returned product is fit for reuse in the secondary market (refer to Figure 1). On the other hand, low residual value returned product will be further dismantled for salvaging the components and materials. For electromechanical product case, it will be categorized into mechanical, electrical and material. The grade for each recovery path is based on the component characteristics generate in design stage. A good condition part could be reused, moderate condition part could be remanufactured, part in the poor state could be recycled and the very poor one should be disposed. The assessment flow is valid for both functional and non-functional EoL products.

  • 3 The Role of Energy Efficiency

With the increasing and volatile oil prices, energy saving of electrical driven products and improved reliability of products are the major concern for consumer and industry. Power consumption and

energy efficiency are the primary metrics used to quantify product performance. To get a direct relationship for energy efficiency corresponding to performance, it is defined as ratio of useful work to energy consumed.

Figure 2 shows the assessment flow of new product (in the left column) and EoL product


In order to figure out the performance of an electromechanical product, waste energy from the product operation will be captured. Particularly for electromechanical product, waste energies are the unwanted heat, noise and vibration. Therefore, condition monitoring will be executed for data collection in order to evaluate the operating history of components. Multiple sensors will be attached to the critical parts for data capturing. The data will be analyzed and Mathematical model will be generated.

Figure 2 shows the assessment flow of new product (in the left column) and EoL product


  • 4 Reliability analysis

In order to ensure market acceptance and economic feasibility of used product, confirmation of product quality and reliability is pressing need [19-21]. A generic methodology is proposed to evaluate quality and reliability of used product, as shown in Figure 3. Life data such as purchase date and returning date, as well as operation data are required to identify energy efficiency and reliability via vibration analysis, sound analysis and thermal analysis. The quality and reliability assessment are based on the trend of energy losses (ie. unwanted vibration, noise and heat) when the machine is in operation. The higher the losses, the more energy utilized, thereby more inefficient a product is. On top of that, study on the trend of energy loss could be beneficial for defining the criticality of component breakdown and the relationship with the rest of the components. Accelerated life testing will be executed for data collection. It is a test method for shortening the lifetime of a product or hastening the degradation of product performance [22]. With the collected data, the quality and reliability in terms of efficiency and residual value of particular component or product can be determined.

Figure 2 shows the assessment flow of new product (in the left column) and EoL product

Figure 3 Steps for reliability analysis

  • 4.1 Vibration analysis

Vibration analysis is used as a tool to determine product status, such as specific fault and precise location of the problem. This expedites product repair and analysis, and saves costs. For the electromechanical product, vibration is one of the key indicators of product performance status. The vibration is contributed by different sources, which directly or indirectly impact product’s lifespan. Therefore, condition monitoring is required to record product’s vibration history. Monitoring vibration levels over time allows the engineer to review overall trend of product performance and to predict problem occurrence.

Accelerometers are used for machinery vibration monitoring in this paper. It produces an electrical output signal that is proportional to applied vibration. As shown in Figure 4, analog form of electrical signal is received from accelerometer. The signal will be filtered to eliminate the unwanted frequencies and then converted into digital form. For further signal processing, the most common analysis of is known as Fast Fourier Transform. This method takes real- world, time-varying signal and split into components, such as amplitude, phase and frequency. By correlating with the frequencies and electromechanical product characteristics, and referring at the amplitudes, it is possible to locate the problem accurately. The spectrum diagram will be displayed and collected data will be stored on a recording instrument.

Piezoelectric type of accelerometer sensor is the most appropriate sensor for electromechanical product monitoring. It provides wide frequency range and suitable to accurately measure most of the machinery vibrations. The two main parameters of a piezoelectric sensor are sensitivity and frequency range. Higher frequency range has less sensitivity, and vice versa. Hence, it is necessary to compromise between sensitivity and frequency range when choosing the sensor for an application.

Analog Analog Anti-aliasing Input to digital signal signal converter Display & Fast Fourier Averaging storage Transform
to digital
Display &
Fast Fourier
Figure 4 Steps for vibration signal analysis
  • 4.2 Sound analysis

Vibration in machinery is always coupled with impulsive sounds caused by impacting components

and is commonly associated with faults. Therefore, it has been recognized that sound signal can be beneficially used for product status assessment. Microphone will be utilized to measure the presence of abnormal sound signal under operating condition. However, recognition of these signals can be obstructed by the presence of normal machine running background signals, which makes the analysis difficult. Figure 5 shows the steps for sound processing. To detect the abnormal sound signal, suppressing of background noise should be carried out in order to get large signal to noise ratio (SNR) prior to further processing. Removal of some potential disturbing noise could be done through filtering process. Next, Fourier transform is introduced to transform the filtered signal into another domain so that class discriminative parameters can be more easily extracted. Then, the interested features can be selected and optimized. Finally, particular sound pattern could be recognized to identify the product status.

Input Signal Signal Feature Output pre-processing projection extractions Fourier Wanted Sound Sound signal Filters Transform features
pre-processing projection
Sound signal

Figure 5 Steps for sound analysis

  • 4.3 Thermal analysis

Thermal analysis is the most critical type of monitoring technique in product assessment. It is the measurement of some physical parameter of a system as a function of temperature. With better performance and increased complexity in today’s product, heat had been build-up in electronics and mechanical parts. The excessive build-up heat affects product structural integrity hence deteriorates its reliability. In this study, infrared thermal imaging which is an instrument that able to map heat pattern will be used for thermal analysis. It is able to find heat leaks in a system and detect hot spots as a result of degrading material dressing after product used for some time. Without the use of thermal imaging, it would have

been nearly impossible to identify the failure mechanism location. Then, multiple discrete temperature sensors will be placed at the hot spots to get a detailed visibility of site temperature. Knowing both general and detail temperatures could give us

overall picture of the product performance to identify critical components.



opportunity to estimate the remaining lifetime of used part or product. An efficient and reliable product

  • 5.1 Resource efficiency

Energy efficiency study and reliability analysis are helpful to product manufacturer, especially when Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation is in place for addressing e-waste problem. However, manufacturers might have concerns on increase in cost of production by adding EoL treatment cost. Also, if the e-waste is not properly managed, secondary pollution may occur and additional cost could incur to the manufacturer.

To assist the manufacturers, the proposed method is compensating the production cost by recovering valuable product, parts or materials. The method provides a systematic assessment for EoL product before it goes to landfill. In other words, it retains the resources and embodied energy from making new product.

Current energy assessment method does not include the product in EoL phase. For example, the energy efficiency of room air conditioner is commonly expressed as Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). However, the rating only tells its cooling performance in general.

5 Discussion opportunity to estimate the remaining lifetime of used part or product. An efficient and


On the other hand, analysis on waste energy presented in this article would give an insight on product failure mode and its consequences. Moreover, statistical study on the collected data would be able to predict remaining lifetime of the product. Thus, warranty for particular part or product could be designed.

One of the prime advantages of the proposed methodology is where the reliability and efficiency information of a new product could be saved in database and used as reference when EoL product returns. It saves time and cost to look for the suitable recycler. Besides, this solves the problems for the external recycler, such as lack of product information, identify proper treatment technology, and select treatment facilities.

  • 5.2 Sustainable consumption and production

An accurate prediction of the product or component residual value has become increasingly important in order to improve productivity and generate less waste. For instance, when the worldwide trend has increasing shortage of resources and problem in environmental impact, used parts or products could be the promising option for replacement. Energy efficiency study and reliability analysis offer the

could be brought back to the market or export to developing country. In addition, the analysis provides the insight of consumable parts that could be salvaged from inefficient product. Given the appropriate analysis outcome, it gives informed decision to prolong product lifespan. Hence, less waste will be generated and less production for making new part or product will be taking place.

This study facilitates comprehensive foundation for further research and decision making on value recovery through different recovery path. A case study on air conditioner for prove of concept will be carried out.

  • 6 Conclusion

The methodology mentioned consists of energy efficiency and reliability analysis for EoL product assessment, residual value estimation, component classification and EoL decision making. This methodology can be applied to the sorting process for many types of electromechanical products. It closes the product life cycle loop by sharing the information in product design phase and EoL phase. However, such approach can be implemented only when the product is returned. A lot of usage information is not known, and cost incurred to the transportation and waste collection for a usable product. Thereby, manufacturer needs to work closely with distributor and customer in order to close the product usage information loop.

For further e-waste recovery improvement, product service system (PSS) could be combined with the proposed method. PSS involves product regularly take-back for upgrades or replacement [23, 24]. This allows company to benefit from continuous and predictable source of materials and components. In addition, environmental improvements are viable via dematerialization, and regular upgrades leading to more environmentally benign technology. Overall, EoL management can be enhanced by improving the reliability of used product for optimal utilization.

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