Lifecycle of a Product

The choices we make every day determine how much waste we produce. As consumers, we usually only see or use a product for a very short time in its lifecycle. For example, we may buy a hot drink from a café, which comes in a paper cup that we throw away as soon as we are finished the drink. Consumers do not see how all the raw materials that are needed to manufacture that cup are extracted from nature. We do not see how the cup is manufactured, nor the mode of transport used to distribute the product. When we throw it in the bin, we do not see how it is broken down.

In order to understand how much rubbish we produce, all phases of a product’s lifecycle must be considered. Understanding the relationship between the consumer and the earth’s natural resources will help us to become more aware of how our choices impact on the environment.

Phases of a product’s lifecycle

1.        All products are dependant on nature. Some form of energy is always needed to extract the natural resources from the earth. For example, to produce plastics, petroleum or natural gas must be extracted from the earth.

2.        More energy is needed as the raw materials are refined and processed.

3.        Materials move through the manufacturing and assembly process – this requires more energy.

4.        Products are then transported by plane, boat, rail or truck to shops where they are sold to consumers. More energy is needed for transportation.

5.        When the product is no longer of use, it is disposed of by recycling, being sent to a landfill or incineration plant.

Life-cycle of a milk carton

Lifecycle of a milk carton

1.        Wood is harvested;

2.        The paper is made;

3.        The paper is processed into a carton and filled with milk;

4.        The milk carton is transported to the shop;

5.        The empty milk carton is disposed of in the home;

6.        The milk carton is recycled, reducing the amount of wood harvesting.

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