Life Cycle Assessment – Toilet seats and business sustainability

The hinges on a toilet seat broke and so I thought I would buy the hinges and replace them. Well the manufacturer’s website didn’t have the information and an email to them didn’t elict a response, so what I found myself doing was buying a new plastic toilet seat I didn’t need to acquire the hinges.

This led me to thinking what does this say about business’s attitude to sustainability? Most people would buy the seat and dump the old one even though it is perfectly serviceable.

This seems to fail the Life Cycle Assessment – defined by Wiki as “a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from cradle to grave (i.e., from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling).”

There are plenty of examples where it is easier to dispose of a product rather than have it repaired, but making access to the relevant spare part opaque to encourage a purchase of a product goes beyond this.

The EC has focussed on resource efficiency as a goal. I disagree with some of their views on which resources should be included, but the overall aim is correct. More focus should be given to the micro issues on sustainability such as the toilet seat hinge.

A recent Carbon Trust paper states:

 “According to published figures, we are generating 3.5 million tonnes per day of solid municipal waste worldwide, and this value is expected to reach 6 million tonnes by 2025. The cost of dealing with this waste is also rising: from $205 billion a year in 2010 to $375 billion by 2025 . The UK alone generates over 30 million tonnes of waste annually and over a quarter of it is still being sent to landfill.”

Recent measures have produced significant benefits around Europe. If it is worth charging 5p to reduce the use of plastic bags in the UK, then its worth looking at industry practices which produce non recyclable waste. The 5p charge introduced in October 2015 has reduced annual consumption of plastic bags from 7.5 bn to 0.5bn.

There is already a campaign for coffee chains to use recyclable coffee cups (they are not at present) and we will see more challenges to business practice over time.

I will be challenging the relevant manufacturer of the toilet seat, what else should be targeted?



© Chris Lenon and  2014-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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