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Printed and tablet e-paper newspaper from an environmental perspective: a screening life cycle assessment
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies. (Center for Sustainable Communications)
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies.
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Media Technology and Graphic Arts, Media (closed 20111231).
2010 (English)In: Environmental impact assessment review, ISSN 0195-9255, E-ISSN 1873-6432, Vol. 30, no 3, 177-191 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Viable alternatives to conventional newspapers, such as electronic papers, e-papers or e-readers, are intended to have many of the qualities of paper, such as reading using reflective light, high resolution, 180° viewing angle. It has been suggested that the environmental impact of e-paper can be lower than for printed and internet-based newspapers. However, in order to find the facts of the matter, a thorough life cycle perspective covering raw material acquisition, production, use and disposal should preferably be used to study the environmental performance of the different products. A screening life cycle assessment was performed to describe the potential environmental impacts of two product systems; printed on paper and tablet e-paper newspapers. Results show that the most significant phase of the life cycle for both product systems was the production of substrate or platform. Accordingly, key aspects that may affect the resulting environmental performance of newspaper product systems were for the printed newspaper number of readers per copy and number of pages per issue and for the tablet e-paper newspaper lifetime and multi-use of the device. The printed newspaper in general had a higher energy use, higher emissions of gases contributing to climate change and several other impact categories than the tablet e-paper newspaper. It was concluded that tablet e-paper has the potential to decrease the environmental impact of newspaper consumption. However, further studies regarding the environmental impact of production and waste management of electronic devices and internet use, as well as more comprehensive assessment of toxicological impacts are needed. As the data on the electronic devices becomes more comprehensive this may prove to be a major limitation of electronic newspaper systems. Developers are suggested to strive towards minimisation of toxic and rare substances in production.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 30, no 3, 177-191 p.
Keyword [en]
life cycle assessment, newspaper, e-paper, multichannel, reading tablet, electronic media
National Category
Media and Communications Other Environmental Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12480DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2009.07.001ISI: 000278320500004ScopusID: 2-s2.0-77049105620OAI: diva2:315237
QC 20100610Available from: 2010-04-28 Created: 2010-04-28 Last updated: 2012-03-20Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Assessment of media and communication from a sustainability perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Assessment of media and communication from a sustainability perspective
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis aims to assess potential environmental impacts of media and communication and to contribute to the development of methods for sustainability assessment. Although the main focus is on printed and electronic media products and environmental impacts, a broader sector analysis is also included and social aspects are discussed. The thesis provides a review of different environmental assessment tools in order to better understand their relationships and the appropriateness of different tools in different situations. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used to assess printed and electronic versions of newspapers, books and invoices. Results of the screening LCAs of newspapers and books indicate that when comparing printed and electronic versions there are benefits and drawbacks for both. For news and books read on e-reading devices with energy efficient e-ink screens, the main environmental impacts in the studies stemmed from the production of the device and partly from disposal, with the latter having the potential to reduce some environmental impacts through recycling of materials. However, there are data gaps regarding the production of the e-reading devices, most notably for the e-ink screen and the waste management of obsolete e-reading devices. Existing data on internet energy use are uncertain. The potential impacts from a hypothetical total change from paper invoices to electronic invoices in Sweden were assessed through a screening consequential LCA regarding greenhouse gas emissions and cumulative energy demand. The results indicate that emissions and energy demand could decrease as a result of a change. The screening LCAs performed indicate that users’ practices could substantially influence the environmental impacts. Key factors which can influence results and comparisons of printed and electronic media products are total use of electronic devices, total use of printed media, amount and type of paper, energy use of electronic devices, potential printing of electronic media, electricity mix, and the system boundaries set for the assessments.

To get a wider perspective, a sector study of the ICT sector and media sector concerning global greenhouse gas emissions and operational electricity use was performed. It was estimated that the contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 was roughly 1-2 % for each sector. To assess media and communication products from a sustainability perspective, social aspects should also be covered. The author participated in an international project group on social aspects and LCA, one outcome from which was guidelines for social LCA (S-LCA). In addition to providing guidance for S-LCA, another important role of the guidelines is to facilitate discussions, criticism and proposals for improvement and development of the methodology being developed.

The LCA and sector studies in this thesis are limited to direct and to some extent indirect environmental impacts. Further studies of the environmental impacts of more long-term changes in practices and potential structural changes, as well as potential social impacts, could provide important additional insights. This could increase the possibility of facilitating sustainable practices related to ICT and media.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2010. 74 p.
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 2010-05
electronic media, e-reading device, print media, newspaper, book, invoice, information and communication technology (ICT), environmental assessment, life cycle assessment (LCA), social life cycle assessment (S-LCA), sector analysis
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Other Environmental Engineering Natural Sciences
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-12502 (URN)978-91-7415-636-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-05-27, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
QC 20100610Available from: 2010-05-03 Created: 2010-04-29 Last updated: 2010-06-10Bibliographically approved

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