Each stage of the production process generates a specific type of waste. Each waste product requires a specific management solution. We generally consider three groups of waste. Those generated as a result of:

  • extraction and transformation of raw materials
  • manufacturing and production of goods (including building construction)
  • distribution and consumption of manufactured products
Journey along the production of a car (from the extraction of natural resources to waste disposal and recycling)
44 Kb

The Life cycle approach gives a more complete picture of the waste and energy associated with a product. Our daily choices determine the amount of waste we produce. As consumers, our relationship to a product happens only during a short phase of its existence. For example, if we purchase a Styrofoam cup, we just use it for a hot beverage and then throw it away. Most of the life cycle of this cup remains invisible to us (before as well as after we use it): we have no idea about the raw materials and energy extracted from the environment that are needed to produce, transport and distribute it. And probably even less about the real coast of its treatment when it becomes a waste. To get a comprehensive overview of the amount of waste we generate, and its financial and environmental costs, it is important to consider the full life cycle of products, and not only the period when they are useful to us. Rather than just looking at the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill or an incinerator, the life cycle analysis is a comprehensive approach: it also measures energy use, material inputs and waste generated from the production until the goods are delivered to the consumer.


Raw Materials: Mining of minerals: copper, iron, lead, zinc, and aluminum (generating waste in the neighborhood of the mines). Other raw materials (often non renewable) needed for electronic parts, interior surfaces, paint and fi nishes.

Production: During the final assembly: paints, coatings, lubricants and fluids (generating excess materials a specific type of waste)

Distribution: Assembled cars are transported by truck, train and cargo to dealerships (generating air emissions). Factories, assembly plants, road systems, parking places, dealerships and garages require land to be cleared, resulting in deforestation, degradation of habitat for wildlife and an increase in rainwater runoff.

Consumption: Maintenance and repair of cars generates a large range of hazardous waste: fuel, oil, lubricants, washing powder, wax, paint, rubber (tires), tar, anti-freeze liquid and other products such as acids and chemicals (used in batteries, air-conditioning systems, brake systems).

Recycling or disposal: Three quarters of a car is in theory recyclable, but far less is actually reclaimed. Cars are either partly recycled or simply disposed of (waste consuming large areas). The steel, iron, and aluminum rate highest in reuse. Plastics, which are increasingly used in cars, pose numerous problems for recycling because of the great variety of plastic formulations and the lack of an economically feasible processing program.

20 Kb

Ecologic review for a 1 000 kilogram car produced in 1994; estimated over 10 years; assuming a total mileage of 150 000 kilometers and an average fuel consumption of 8.1 liters per hundred kilometers.

From production to disposal of the car:

Energy produced and used
for the extraction of raw materials
for the production of the car
for running the car during its life time
Air emissions
Carbon dioxide
36 000 kg
Carbon monoxide
413 kg
Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
192 kg
Sulfur dioxide
34 kg
Nitrogen oxides
28 kg
    Contact | Download | Press release