Environmental Implications of Product Servicising. - The Case of Outsourced Computing Utilities
Sammanfattning: The life cycle of electronic products is associated with significant environmental impacts. Compared to many other products, the production of electronics and in particular semiconductors is resource intensive and generates a number of highly toxic waste streams in manufacturing and post-consumer stages of product life cycle. Electronics manufacturing industry has been successful in reducing environmental impacts on per product basis increasing resource efficiency, preventing pollution and reducing material toxicity. However, technological improvements have been able to negate the effects of growing consumption and rapid product obsolescence, so that the absolute impacts from the life cycle of electronics continue growing. This thesis builds on the premise that technological improvements are insufficient in reducing the negative environmental implications from the life cycle of electronics. Reducing the levels and/or changing the patterns of consumption is a necessary complementary strategy. Dematerialisation through product servicising is considered an effective approach in this respect, since it could provide alternative means of consumption without infringing the interests of producers and consumers. This thesis explores the environmental implications of servicing electronic products by studying the case of substituting traditional computing systems based on owned PCs, with outsourced computing services delivered through centralised IT systems. The research builds on the analysis of the case of Application Service Provider (ASP) services. Through a comparative analysis of traditional decentralised and centralised server-based computing systems, where computing resources on a server are shared between several users, the author highlights factors influencing a wider application of service-based IT solutions in commercial and residential sectors and the potential for associated environmental benefit. The thesis also discusses methodological challenges in environmental assessments of electronic products and services and provides recommendations for improvements.
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