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Systematic environmental assessment of end-of-life pathways for domestic refrigerators

Rigorous and fair comparison of end-of-life handling options for domestic refrigerators is much more complicated than simple policy perspectives such as the waste hierarchy might suggest. The drive towards product reuse over material recycling merits particularly close attention. This study explores the factors that might influence policy and decision-making in this area, with a view to minimising overall environmental impact. The work combines life-cycle assessments of refrigerators with models for product performance over time to give a sector-wide perspective on these issues. Generally-accepted tenets such as the preferability of product reuse are shown to be provisional, heavily dependent on factors such as the electricity mix, and non-uniform for different measures of impact. A more general and complicated picture emerges, and recommendations for existing policy and ongoing work are developed.