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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Automobile life cycle outcomes and possibilities under extended producer responsibility legislation in Japan Ogushi, Yasuhiko


The incorporation of life cycle perspectives in the manufacturing industry has been called on as a more effective way of reducing waste and resource use than conventional 'end-of-pipe' approaches. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and simple disposal is the list of life cycle options ranked in order from the most to the least desirable. While such rankings are robust from an environmental perspective, in practice it can be difficult to orient life cycle outcomes to match this hierarchy. Products can vary along many dimensions - technological complexity, physical durability, rate of technological change, and material characteristics. These attributes interact in complex ways with the market and regulations, obviating any straightforward relationship between product types and life cycle outcomes related to the theoretical hierarchy. The first part of this study does a comparative case study of five categories of products in the Japanese market: copiers, household appliances, disposable cameras, personal computers and automobiles. It identifies four key factors of life cycle outcomes - product attributes, after-market demand, reverse logistics and recovery technologies, and examines the way in which these attributes interact to produce different life cycle outcomes. An important trend affecting a product life cycle outcome is the recent regulatory approach that mandates manufacturers' responsibility of taking back products at the end-of-life. The second part of this study focuses on how the End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Recycling Law in Japan, which was designed to improve recovery rate of ELVs, has led to innovation and technological changes in design, development and ELV recovery processes. Japanese automobile manufacturers have focused on technological innovation that enhances the levels of material recycling and part reuse. Other life cycle outcomes, such as remanufacturing of vehicles, are less likely to emerge as a result of the enforcement of the law alone. There are constraining factors to remanufacturing vehicles, including longer life span versus the period of manufacturing and the difficulty of securing quality of parts from ELVs. An evaluation of early impacts of the ELV Recycling Law on technological innovation and product life cycle may also provide insights for policy design and product life cycle strategies for further progress in ELV recovery.

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