Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

LCA of Printed and E-paper Documents

Comparing the global warming potential (GWP) of the service provided by an iRex Digital Reader to the same service provided by an office printer using a scanning LCA.

2008 - 2009
Rene Kleijn
iRex Technologies

Paper use does not only create a problem of wastes and exploitation of natural resources, but also has a significant impact on global warming [Counsell, 2006]. Recently electronic reading devices based on electronic ink or e-paper technologies have been introduced as an alternative to paper use. The goal of this study is to compare the global warming potential (GWP) of the service an iRex Digital Reader provides to the same service if provided by an office printer. The comparison is based on a screening Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), a form of the scientific tool which assesses the environmental impact of a product or service throughout its life cycle. The functional unit used in this study is the service of one year of office paper use. In this study it was assumed that the iRex DR will substitute all paper printouts made by the office worker.

Two alternative were used in this study; one in which printing is done on LWC (light-weight coated) paper and one in which printing is done on woodfree uncoated paper. Furthermore, two scenarios were made, to be able to calculate a break-even point. The two scenarios represent the cases in which an office worker either prints 2000 pages a year, or 12480 pages a year, which is the maximum amount possible when the printer is shared between 30 office workers. The break-even point is reached much sooner than the consumption of an average office worker of 10,000 prints per year. The break-even points are about 5000 prints per year for woodfree uncoated paper and slightly over 3000 prints per year for LWC paper.

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