A newly released research monograph from the Printing Industry Center at RIT compares life cycle analyses performed within the printing industry to identify opportunities for standardization. Titled "Life Cycle Analysis in the Printing Industry: A Review" (PICRM-2011-05) the monograph is authored by Justin Bousquin, a graduate student in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business, and Center researchers Marcos Esterman, Ph.D., assistant professor, Kate Gleason College of Engineering, and Sandra Rothenberg, Ph.D., associate professor, E. Philip Saunders College of Business.
This meta-analysis focused on the data sources and methodologies used in the included studies. Fourteen LCA studies on a variety of topics related to imaging equipment were compared in order to identify common practices, limitations, and areas for improvement and standardization.
Key findings include:
- An approach to standardization needs to include the standardization of measurement methods. This is evident from the prevalent use of GWP 100-years and ENERGY STAR energy consumption standards cited. By following this approach for other categories, more cross-study comparisons will be facilitated.
- Like most LCAs, those performed in the printing industry still lack reliable data for the early life cycle and end-of-life of paper. Some uncertainty issues can be solved by increasing data and data transparency through the inclusion of metadata or reviews.
- Products have diverse functional values beyond simple document production, and these need to be considered in addition to LCA results when making design decisions. Standardization of the functional unit and its included assumptions has a high potential to increase quantitative comparability across studies. At the same time, caution must be taken not to use "paper" to define the imaging device's function, allowing for the inclusion of alternative media in the comparison.
- Consumables should continue to be examined closely. Ink and toner advancements and alternatives have potential to make improvements in less popular impact categories.
The report is available for download as a PDF from http://print.rit.edu/research/show/164.