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End-of-life implications of electronic textiles - Assessment of a converging technology

Köhler, Andreas LU (2008) IMEN41 20081
The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics
Abstract
Contemporary innovation in the converging technology sectors of electronics and textile aims
at augmenting functionality of textiles, making them “smart”. That is, integrating electronic
functions such as sensing, data processing, and networking into wearable products. Embedding
electronic devices into textiles results in a novel category of products: electronic textiles
(e-textiles). Whereas researchers and innovators are pushing forward technological development
little attention has been paid to the end-of-life implications of such future products.
E-textiles may not only entail promising business opportunities but also adverse environmental
impacts. This study examines potential end-of-life implications, which could emerge
once... (More)
Contemporary innovation in the converging technology sectors of electronics and textile aims
at augmenting functionality of textiles, making them “smart”. That is, integrating electronic
functions such as sensing, data processing, and networking into wearable products. Embedding
electronic devices into textiles results in a novel category of products: electronic textiles
(e-textiles). Whereas researchers and innovators are pushing forward technological development
little attention has been paid to the end-of-life implications of such future products.
E-textiles may not only entail promising business opportunities but also adverse environmental
impacts. This study examines potential end-of-life implications, which could emerge
once future e-textiles are disposed of. Using the methodological framework of technology
assessment an overview of current innovation processes for e-textiles is established and an
outlook on future applications areas is provided. Further, information on technologies and
materials composition of e-textiles is mapped as a basis for assessing the prospective implications
at the end of their useful life.
The findings suggest that widespread application of e-textiles could result in the emergence of
a new waste stream. There are various parallels to electronic waste, which causes profound
environmental problems nowadays. Risks include potential release of toxic substances during
the disposal phase. And, loss of scarce materials is to be expected if no recycling takes place.
This would accelerate the depletion of resources. Recycling of textile integrated electronic
devices will be difficult. From the analysis it can be deduced that today’s schemes for takeback,
recycling and disposal would not be sufficient to cope with waste e-textiles in an environmentally
benign manner. Instead, discarded e-textiles would find their way into solid waste
and increase the existing environmental problems of waste disposal.
The study concludes with recommendations for policy makers and technology developers on
how a waste preventative technology design could be achieved. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Köhler, Andreas LU
supervisor
organization
course
IMEN41 20081
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Electronic textiles, end of life, LCA
language
English
id
1480555
date added to LUP
2009-09-29 13:00:40
date last changed
2009-09-29 13:00:40
@misc{1480555,
  abstract     = {Contemporary innovation in the converging technology sectors of electronics and textile aims
at augmenting functionality of textiles, making them “smart”. That is, integrating electronic
functions such as sensing, data processing, and networking into wearable products. Embedding
electronic devices into textiles results in a novel category of products: electronic textiles
(e-textiles). Whereas researchers and innovators are pushing forward technological development
little attention has been paid to the end-of-life implications of such future products.
E-textiles may not only entail promising business opportunities but also adverse environmental
impacts. This study examines potential end-of-life implications, which could emerge
once future e-textiles are disposed of. Using the methodological framework of technology
assessment an overview of current innovation processes for e-textiles is established and an
outlook on future applications areas is provided. Further, information on technologies and
materials composition of e-textiles is mapped as a basis for assessing the prospective implications
at the end of their useful life.
The findings suggest that widespread application of e-textiles could result in the emergence of
a new waste stream. There are various parallels to electronic waste, which causes profound
environmental problems nowadays. Risks include potential release of toxic substances during
the disposal phase. And, loss of scarce materials is to be expected if no recycling takes place.
This would accelerate the depletion of resources. Recycling of textile integrated electronic
devices will be difficult. From the analysis it can be deduced that today’s schemes for takeback,
recycling and disposal would not be sufficient to cope with waste e-textiles in an environmentally
benign manner. Instead, discarded e-textiles would find their way into solid waste
and increase the existing environmental problems of waste disposal.
The study concludes with recommendations for policy makers and technology developers on
how a waste preventative technology design could be achieved.},
  author       = {Köhler, Andreas},
  keyword      = {Electronic textiles,end of life,LCA},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {End-of-life implications of electronic textiles - Assessment of a converging technology},
  year         = {2008},
}