The total waste of products – a study on waste footprint and climate cost

Except from the waste that results as a produced is used and discarded, waste is generated during production of the product itself. Consumers may have difficulties to in realizing the full extent of the impact that their consumption behaviors have on the environment as they only see the waste generated in the household. Without comprehensive information about the lifecycle impacts of goods, consumers cannot adopt consistent sustainable conducts. In this study we developed a waste footprint metric in order to improve understanding and awareness of consumers about the total waste generated in the course of producing the goods they consume.

We calculated the waste footprint of 11 products and estimated the climate cost due to the greenhouse gas emissions related to the production processes. The consumer goods assessed were chicken and beef, an electric drill, a laptop computer, a liter of milk, a pair of trousers, a pair of leather shoes, a smart phone, training clothes (a T-shirt and a pair of shorts in polyester), carton milk packaging and a newspaper.

The results demonstrate that there are great environmental benefits by producing less consumer goods and use the products more efficiently because only then it is possible to reduce the overall waste footprint from our consumption. We thus argue for the importance of changing consumption patterns, and advocate for novel business models based on a use-oriented consumption (sharing and reusing) that encourage different ways of consuming and more sustainable life styles.

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Last updated: 2021-05-05

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has a wide environmental profile. We combine applied research and development with close collaboration between industry and the public sphere. Our consultancy is evidence-based, and our research is characterized by interdisciplinary science and system thinking.

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