Towards a Circular Economy with Environmental Product Policy: Considering dynamics in closing and slowing material loops for lighting products

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A Circular Economy (CE) can help to achieve the sustainable development goal of responsible consumption and production. Product policies, in turn, can support CE objectives by promoting reuse of products, recycling of materials, and providing ecodesign incentives for more durable products. This thesis examined the role of product policies in meeting CE objectives in the EU, with specific focus on lighting products in the context of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Ecodesign Directives. The research findings contributed to current policy questions, including how well WEEE systems have performed in closing material loops; the potential for closing loops for critical materials; and what trade-offs can occur in promoting longer lifetimes for rapidly developing products.

A theory-based evaluation was used to assess the performance of extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies for lighting products in the Nordic countries. While the WEEE systems were generally performing well, there were issues identified, including the downcycling and loss of many recycled materials and lack of ecodesign incentives. The research also found that the requirements of the WEEE Directive were a key enabler for closing loops for rare earth elements (REE) from lighting products, but that the recycling efforts in the EU face challenges with economic feasibility and complex transactions in the value chain.
The lifetimes of LED lighting products were examined from a consumer perspective through a life cycle cost analysis and an environmental perspective with life cycle assessment. From a consumer perspective, lifetimes much longer than the mandatory Ecodesign minimums were found to be optimal for LED products on the Swedish market. From an environmental perspective, longer lifetimes for LED lighting products can result in trade-offs between energy/climate impacts and resource depletion/toxicity impacts. However, in the context of a less carbon-intensive electricity mix, these trade-offs are minimised. The same is true if the product’s energy efficiency improvements slow or mature.

The research suggested that more specific product and material targets in the WEEE Directive could be appropriate. While the findings indicated that more stringent mandatory lifetime requirements in the Ecodesign Directive may not be appropriate for products with rapid technological developments, dynamic trade-offs should be explicitly recognised in policy mixes and accounted for in policy planning.
  • Lindhqvist, Thomas, handledare
  • Tojo, Naoko, handledare
  • Dalhammar, Carl, Biträdande handledare
UtgivningsortLund University
ISBN (tryckt)978-91-87357-51-0
ISBN (elektroniskt)978-91-87357-50-3
StatusPublished - 2019 dec. 13

Bibliografisk information

Defence details
Date: 2019-12-13
Time: 01:15
Place: Aula, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Tegnérsplatsen 4, Lund University, Faculty of Engineering LTH, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Alberg Mosgaard, Mette
Title: Doctor
Affiliation: Aalborg University, Denmark

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

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