Environmental Impact From Microwave Ovens

totalenvironmentThree scientists at the University of Manchester have shared their findings in a journal whose title we had not been aware of, but are glad to know is looking out for us all:

1-s2.0-S0048969717X00259-cov150hScience of the Total Environment is an international journal for publication of original research on the total environment, which includes the atmospherehydrospherebiospherelithosphere, and anthroposphere.

Since most readers of our pages likely use this type of oven on a daily basis, it seems worthy of a moment to read their findings as abstracted below:

Environmental assessment of microwaves and the effect of European energy efficiency and waste management legislation

Authored by Alejandro Gallego-Schmid, Joan Manuel F.Mendoza & Adisa Azapagic

130 M microwaves in the EU consume 9.4 TWh of electricity annually.

First LCA for microwaves to estimate the environmental effects of EU regulation

Standby Regulation will reduce impacts by 4–9% by 2020; WEEE Directive by ~ 0.3%.

Decarbonisation of electricity will reduce most impacts by 6–24% by 2020.

Eco-design regulation for microwaves should be developed to reduce resource use.

More than 130 million microwaves are affected by European Union (EU) legislation which is aimed at reducing the consumption of electricity in the standby mode (‘Standby Regulation’) and at more sustainable management of end-of-life electrical and electronic waste (‘WEEE Directive’).

While legislation focuses on these two life cycle stages, there is little information on the environmental impacts of the entire life cycle of microwaves. To address this gap, this paper presents a comprehensive life cycle assessment of microwaves and assesses the environmental implications of the Standby Regulation and the WEEE Directive at the EU level. The impacts are first considered at the level of individual appliances and then at the EU level, with the aim of evaluating the potential environmental implications of the full implementation of the above two EU regulations by 2020. The effects of the electricity decarbonisation and the expected increase in the number of microwaves in use have also been considered. The results suggest that implementation of the EU regulation by 2020 will reduce the environmental impacts considered by 4%–9% compared to the current situation. The majority of these reductions is due to the Standby Regulation, with the contribution of the WEEE Directive being small (~ 0.3%). However, the expected decarbonisation of electricity will result in much higher reductions (6%–24%) for most impact categories. The results also show that the materials used to manufacture the microwaves, the manufacturing process and end-of-life disposal are environmental hot-spots for several impacts, including depletion of abiotic elements. Therefore, efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of a future electricity mix should be combined with the development of specific eco-design regulations for microwaves that stipulate optimisation of resource consumption. Possible future trends, such as shorter lifetimes and limited availability of some resources, make the development of such product regulations more critical.


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