Environmental Impact of a Portable Photo Flash - Using Life Cycle Assessment Methodology

University essay from KTH/Kemiteknik

Abstract: This study was about performing an LCA on a portable flash unit, C1, made by Profoto. The goal was to get an overview of the environmental impact of the C1 and to investigate hotspots in the production and/or use phase of the C1. The results from the LCA would then be compared by LCAs made on similar products such as the C1, and in this LCA study the comparison was made on two different lamps, LED and CFL lamps. The reason for this is because no other LCA could be found on portable flash units and therefore LED and CFL lamps were chosen instead being the second closest product with the same function as the C1, to create light. The functional unit chosen in this LCA was 1 lumen-hour, which was the same functional unit used by the LED/CFL lamps, and CML 2001 method was used for life cycle impact assessment. In this study only the production and use phase were analyzed and no further investigation were made on the end of life phase of the C1.The whole LCA system has been analyzed and designed by using the GaBi LCA software, and literature studies on both other LCAs and datasheets was used to gather key manufacturing steps of each component of the C1 and rescaled to fit inside the given system boundaries.  From the results given, a conclusion can be made that the battery and the reflector, being two components found in the C1, had the highest contribution in environmental impacts, which is mainly due to the fact that these two components had the highest consumption of electricity. The production phase was the phase with the highest impact in all the chosen impact categories, and stood for 88-99% of the total impacts, while the use phase had an overall low contribution.A scenario analysis was also made where the use phase was changed to three different countries, changing the electricity grid mix used during the use phase. This was done to see whether these changes would influence the overall results of the LCA, and to see whether the use phase still had a low impact compared to the production phase. The results achieved showed a very small change in the overall results in all the chosen impact categories for this study, only increasing the results with 1-3%. With this a conclusion was made that changing the use phase would not affect the overall results of this LCA, the fact being that the production phase stood for the higher contribution in all of the impact categories.Looking at the comparison part, the C1 had a lower impact in 3 out of the 5 chosen impact categories, compared to the LED/CFL lamps. Here the C1 had a lower impact in the Global Warming Potential- (GWP 100), Eutrophication Potential-(EP) and Ozone layer Depletion Potential-(ODP) impact category, while having a higher impact in the Human Toxicity Potential- (HTP) and Acidification Potential- (AP) impact categories, concluding that the C1 has an overall lower impact compared to CFL/LED lamps. The reason for the higher impacts in these two categories was mainly because of the usage of the aluminum reflector, which was the reason for the high impact in the HTP impact category.For future studies Profoto could look over the possibility to exchange the reflector, which was made out of aluminum, for another material, since this could reduce both the cost and environmental impact of the C1. The possibility of exchanging the battery would also be a possible future investigation, since it is the battery which decides the life span of the C1. Being able to exchange the battery would improve the life span of the C1. Investigations regarding the end-of-life phase of the C1 would also be recommended, since many of the components are made out of plastic, which could be recycled. Profoto should also continue making LCAs on their other products and compare the results to the C1, since this would give a better comparison to the C1 with products more similar to itself.  

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