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Keywords:

  • cluster analysis;
  • industrial ecology;
  • life cycle assessment (LCA);
  • multidimensional scaling (MDS);
  • principal-component analysis (PCA);
  • waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

Summary

There is an increasing worldwide concern about the problem of dealing with the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), given the high volume of appliances that are disposed of every day. In this article, an environmental evaluation of WEEE is performed that combines life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology and multivariate statistical techniques. Because LCA handles a large number of data in its different phases, when one is trying to uncover the structure of large multidimensional data sets, multivariate statistical techniques can provide useful information. In particular, principal-component analysis and multidimensional scaling are two important dimension-reducing tools that have been shown to be of help in understanding this type of complex multivariate data set. In this article, we use a variable selection method that reduces the number of categories for which the environmental impacts have to be computed; this step is especially useful when the number of impact categories or the number of products or processes to benchmark increases. We provide a detailed illustration showing how we have used the proposed approach to analyze and interpret the environmental impacts of different domestic appliances.