Operational sustainability metrics : a case of electronics recycling
Author(s)Atlee, Jennifer Robinson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering.
Randolph E. Kirchain, Jr.
MetadataShow full item record
In the past 15 years corporations and governments have developed a growing appreciation of the need for "sustainability" and have worked the term into their goals, strategy and mission statements. Despite extensive efforts to define the term, there is still little clarity on how to move toward sustainability or measure improvements. Further advances toward sustainability will require system specific metrics to assess both current performance and the impact of operational, technological or regulatory changes on that performance. Not only are there currently few operational metrics by which to practically assess progress toward sustainability, there is also very little understanding of how to judge the effectiveness of such metrics. Electronics recycling is used in this thesis as a case problem in developing and evaluating system specific performance metrics for sustainability. Electronics recycling is a growing national and international concern due to the increasing volume of waste, the potential toxicity of the scrap, and reports of improper handling and disposal. Despite this concern, there is limited understanding about the electronics recycling system. There is a need for systematic ways to describe system functioning and quantitative methods to assess system performance. Existing evaluations of eco-efficiency or sustainability are either too aggregated to guide operational decisions or too complex and data intensive to be performed in the context of a low-margin system. A range of performance metrics were developed and assessed for several electronics recycling operators. These included measures of resource recovery and environmental performance.(cont.) These metrics were assessed for their ability to provide insights on resource efficiency comparable to more complex indicators, with minimal data required beyond that collected for normal business operations. The informative value of these metrics, their ability to capture system behavior, and the similarity between evaluations using different metrics were compared. Recovery effectiveness results for three US Electronic recycling operators are presented based on several quantitative indicators. Results show that current simple measures such as "mass percent to landfill" are not sufficient to fully assess system performance. Composite indicators of systems performance can provide valuable insights even using currently available data collected by operators for business purposes.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Systems Division, Technology and Policy Program; and, (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering, 2005.Includes bibliographical references (p. 119-127).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology and Policy Program.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Technology and Policy Program., Materials Science and Engineering.