DES40A Winter 2013
11 March 2013
Barbie’s Product Life Cycle - Raw Materials
Products people use, whether for a one time use or on a daily basis, are usually taken for granted. The production of toys has been a great impact on the environment. Plastic dolls, and Barbie dolls in particular, have been increasingly popular. However, the great amounts of energy and materials it takes to create them as well as the amount of waste that is produced in consequence are what people do not think about or unfortunately do not care to know about. No one bothers to care how they are created, what materials they are made of, whether its production causes harm to the environment, or if its ingredients could cause harm to humans.
Most people see that Barbie dolls are mainly made of plastic. However, they do not know the complexity of her creation. Mattel wanted to make Barbie out of soft vinyl. However, when vinyl was injection-molded it did not always ooze into all the crevices of the mold. Because the vinyl would not always reach every crevice, the dolls sometimes would be created with incomplete fingers or toes. To prevent this problem and make sure each doll had fingers and toes the arms and legs were “rotation-molded”, or turned slowly in molds while the vinyl hardened. Filaments of gold or brown Saran were machine-stitched along Barbie’s vinyl hairlines. Barbie’s eyes were painted with a template resembling a mask that got clogged every twentieth doll and her eyelashes were made of real synthetic hair (Lord 86). In Barbie’s production, “plasticizer” was used. This was a substance that allowed plastic to be soft and bendable, but it could begin to separate from its resin, which was the plastic base, or the polyvinylchloride in Barbie (Lord 74).
Because of the tough new environmental laws introduced in Europe, the producers of Barbie had to rethink her chemical ingredients. One of the reasons was that when the major component of Barbie, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), was incinerated, it produced hydrochloric acid, which is linked to acid rain. By the late 1980’s, the German government passed a law limiting the amount of plasticizer allowed in PVC (Lord 298). They even worried about the inevitable carelessness of children playing with toys. They worried that if children accidentally swallowed a toy made of PVC, their stomach acids would extract the plasticizer leaving behind a hard, dangerous object. Mattel eventually gave in to the law, making the legs of Barbie less flexible and even adapting Barbie’s packaging to follow the European regulations by removing PVC from Barbie’s European boxes’ display windows. Mattel also promised to use more recycled materials (Lord 299).
Today, Barbie’s arms are made of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate), torso of ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene), bend-leg armatures of polypropylene, outer legs of PVC (but a different formula from earlier dolls) (Lord 298), head of hard vinyl compound, and eyes of developmental water-based spray paint systems from a confidential supplier (Ogando 4).
For Barbie to have a more lifelike and flesh-like body, new elastomers were used. Engineering thermoplastics improved her complexion and developmental water-based paints allowed her face to be more beneficial to the environment (Ogando 1). Mattel engineers searched supplier literature for a year, but found nothing. They tested all available soft elastomers but after all the research, thought that the material they were searching for did not exist. However, at a
symposium to evaluate new technologies, engineers finally found an alloy of styrenic block copolymers that seemed to be what they were looking for. Even after finding it, it still took two years to develop with the elastomer suppliers (GLS Corp.) to finalize the material and the molding process. The designers at Mattel decided to hold touch tests to see which GLS “Ultrasoft grade” felt the most skin-like. At first they started off with 40 Shore A Grade, then Mattel requested 10 Shore A durometer, which according to staff engineer Henry Reyes, “almost has the softness of foam”. Mattel and BASF Corp. created a custom PBT formulation called “Silkstone” to meet Mattel’s engineering and aesthetic requirements. This custom PBT contains impact modifiers and thirty percent mineral filling (Ogando 3).
The painting of her eyes is from a developmental water-based paint system from a confidential supplier. The paint on Barbie’s face could now be created by an environmentally friendly system that has a low enough solvent content to win an exemption from federal VOC regulations. This system may soon replace the solvent-based paint now used for her face. The system is made of the paint, spray gun, and an environmentally friendly cleaner. The paint used is a water-based paint that offers the same color fastness and gloss levels as previous paint solvent-based formulas (Ogando 4).
PVC is a universal polymer because of its low cost and high performance. It can be used in the production of many short-life or long-life products, such as the Barbie doll. PVC is one of the most commonly used thermosplastic materials. Because it is a plastic, it is usually just thrown away in landfills. However, there is a more environmentally friendly way. To help prevent more trash in the landfills, PVC can be recycled through a series of processing operations to create “secondary materials or energy”. By recycling PVC and incorporating it into new products, such as bottles and pipes, it helps reuse this material even if only a small part of PVC waste is recycled worldwide (Bakhshandeh 404).
Now PVC is actually one of the largest recycled polymers in developed countries. However, despite available recycling processes for PVC, they are still not efficient enough to have a great impact to benefit the environment. Some processes that PVC is recycled are by energy-recovery techniques, mechanical recycling, and chemical recycling (Bakhshandeh 405). Energy-recovery techniques include incineration. However, there are issues with toxic emissions. Mechanical recycling is the usual plastic recycling method if there is an abundance of the same waste materials (Bakhshandeh 406). Materials needed to mechanically recycle PVC include people to sort plastic wastes by hand, machines at reprocessing plants to sort plastic wastes, high-speed grinder to chop the wastes, detergent and water spray to clean the plastic wastes, and feedstock collected (which includes pre-consumer PVC and suitable post-consumer PVC materials). Chemical recycling or feedstock recycling is the process of breaking up the polymer waste to its basic chemicals by using the materials of heat, chemical agents, and catalysts. Another approach uses hydrogenation, pyrolysis, or gasification, which is called “thermal cracking” (Bakhshandeh 407-408).
EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) is a copolymer made up of ethylene and vinyl acetate. It is bulky acetate side chains. This is a thermoplastic elastomer with amorphous and crystalline ethylene phases (Bhowmick 795).
Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, or ABS, is an engineering thermopastic polymer made of an amorphous-continuous phase and a rubbery-dispersed phase. Polystyrene-co-acrylonitrile (SAN) copolymer is the continuous phase. The dispersed butadiene or butadiene copolymer is the rubbery-dispersed phase that has a layer of SAN on the surface to allow the two phases to be together (Arostegui 2769).
To recycle ABS, the materials go through an extrusion process. They are blended in a co-rotating twin-screw extruder Coperion ZSK 18 ML L/D 44 to homogenize the mixture. This produces pellets to be used in the injection molding process. A Battenfeld Plus 350 was used during the injection molding process (Cândido 1441-1442).
PBT (poly butylene terephthalate) is usually the choice for injection molding applications because of its high crystallization rate that enables fast cycle times and high productivity. It is also highly stable and has low moisture absorption (Brehme 875).
Besides the body of the doll, Barbie also had various clothing and accessories. In the beginning of Barbie’s production, Charlotte Johnson and Jack Ryan were in charge of Barbie’s wardrobe. Because they were working on a doll’s body, they had to convince textile merchants in Japan to create smaller batches of cloth to fit the doll’s specifications. Other accessories used for Barbie’s clothing included small snaps, small buttons, and miniaturized zippers from the zipper manufacturer Yoshida Kojko, also known as YKK. For the actual production of the doll’s clothing, housewives in Japan were hired to sew the cloths (Lord 32). Tiny bust darts, hems, snaps, and even button holes were also created for her clothing (Handler 10).
Throughout my research of the raw materials that are needed to produce Barbie dolls, there were successes and there were failures. The huge successes are the ample research that was found regarding Barbie’s many ingredients. The failures are pieces of information not available and assumptions are things that can be safely assumed to be able to go on with research.
Failures in this research included not being able to find much information about what
materials were used in the reuse of Barbie dolls, recycling, waste management, and scientific information about Barbie’s chemical arrangement in general. The reason for this is most likely due to the infinite ways and unrecorded ways Barbie dolls can be reused. It is probably safe to assume that Barbie dolls could be reused in countless ways, such as parts of abstract art, reused as a second hand toy, or resold as a collector’s item.
The reason for why not much information about the recycling of Barbie dolls is probably due to the fact that, like the reuse of the Barbie dolls, there are countless ways to recycle. There were some pieces of information found for the recycle processes of some ingredients in Barbie. However, there was not research found in regards to the recycling of the actual whole doll itself.
A reason why there was not much information or research found in regards to Barbie doll waste management was probably because people did not find this subject area to be relevant or useful enough to spend time to research. It is probably safe to assume that most people, when done with playing with Barbie dolls, think their dolls were too mangled to be utilized anymore and dump the dolls in the trash leading to waste in the landfills. It is also probably safe to assume that Mattel would not disclose much information about the details that go into the production processes of their prized product.
Trying to find information from Mattel or other sources regarding Barbie’s chemical makeup and all her raw materials was difficult. I had to search everything I could think about in regards to Barbie and her ingredients, such as Barbie and her production, Barbie and the start of her invention, and Barbie’s engineering. The most I could find was some of the plastic substances that went into the making of the body of Barbie and some of the early materials that were used for her clothing. I briefly introduced information about her clothing to showcase that
besides the many materials used to make just the doll’s body, many more materials are needed to produce Barbie’s vast amount of accessories and outfits. It was probably safe to assume that Mattel did not disclose every single material that was used to produce Barbie in order to prevent successful knock-off products. I just had to assume that the materials that Mattel did choose to share publicly, whether through books, articles, or journals, were the main materials and substances used to make the majority of the Barbie doll’s plastic body.
As a seemingly simple product for children, the Barbie doll is complex in its chemical arrangement. There are several materials and production processes that go into creating one Barbie doll, but not many people seem to think about what goes on behind the scenes. They include the vast amount of ingredients, such as the many plastics, that goes into creating just the doll’s body, to the embodied energy that goes into the production of the doll, to the eventual waste that is the consequence that comes from consumerism and consumption. By researching in depth, presenting this vast amount of information that goes into the production of a toy can hopefully spread awareness of society’s usage of potentially harmful materials that go into everyday products.
Arostegui, A., et al. "Effect of dissolution-based recycling on the degradation and the mechanical properties of acrylonitrile–butadiene–styrene copolymer." Polymer Degradattion and Stability 91.11 (2006): 2768-74. ScienceDirect. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141391010004556>.
Bhowmick, T., and S. Pattanayak. "Thermal characteristics of poly(ethylene vinyl acetate) from 80 to 300 K." Cryogenics 30.9 (1990): 795-98. ScienceDirect. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/001122759090277J>.
Brehme, S., et al. "Phosphorus polyester versus aluminium phosphinate in poly(butylene terephthalate) (PBT): Flame retardancy performance and mechanisms." Polymer Degradation and Stability 96.5 (2011): 875-84. ScienceDirect. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141391011000644>.
Candido, Luis, et al. "The recycling cycle of materials as a design project tool." Journal of Cleaner Production 19.13 (2011): 1438-45. ScienceDirect. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652611001521>.
Handler, Ruth, and Jacqueline Shannon. Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story. Stamford: Longmeadow Press, 1995. Print.
Lord, M. G. Forever Barbie. New York: Walker and Company, 2004. Print.
Ogando, Joseph, ed. "Engineering Barbie." Design News. UBM Canon, 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=222831&dfpPParams=ind_183,industry_consumer,aid_222831&dfpLayout=article>.
Sadat-Shojai, Mehdi, and Gholam-Reza Bakhshandeh. "Recycling of PVC wastes." Polymer Degradation and Stability 96.4 (2011): 404-15. ScienceDirect. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141391010004556>.
Professor Christina Cogdell
Embodied Energy in the Product Life Cycle of Barbie Dolls
Every product has its own life cycle, which includes the inputs of energy and raw materials into many different processes up until the end of its life cycle where it is outputted as wastes and emissions. It is important to study the materials that were needed to produce it, how much embodied energy is required, and the disposal of the product which describes what happens to it after it is no longer desirable. One of Mattel’s most popular toys, Barbie, has been a famous cultural icon in the United States since its creation in 1959 by Ruth Handler. The area of subject that I will discuss in a product’s life cycle is the embodied energy that goes into this Barbie doll product. Embodied energy is basically the total amount of energy required for a product’s life-cycle from beginning to end. This includes raw material acquisition, manufacturing and processing, distribution, and recycling/waste.
Most raw materials used to manufacture Barbie are imported from other countries, such as Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Japan. For example, there is a lot of embodied energy involved in how petroleum oil is drilled in Saudi Arabia and refined into ethylene. It is then sold and imported to Taiwan’s Formosa Plastic Corporation, the world’s largest producer of Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC. Formosa Plastics converts the ethylene into PVC pellets, which will later be the flexible plastic that Barbie’s body is made of (Giddens, 58). According to Idratta, there are 62 grams of PVC used, which takes 6,476,400 Joules to be processed. Other materials used in manufacturing the Barbie doll include 58 grams of polyurethane (7,187,500 Joules), 36 grams of acrylonitrile butadlene styrene (3,078,205 Joules), 2 grams of Polyester (176,040 Joules), 0 grams of polyethylene terephthalate (21,906 Joules), and 0 grams of elastic (5,000 Joules). When Mattel first began production, Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan, but as the labor costs rose, Mattel sought out other countries that were a lot cheaper for their toy production. Materials like nylon and synthetic fiber that are used for Barbie’s hair came from Japan. Ethylene and chlorine which make makes a useful plastic such as vinyl, and elastomers that is the material that gives it the ability to be more flexible (Alexander).
The manufacturing process is the stage that results in the most embodied energy used. It involves a lot of embodied energy that goes into the design process, material acquisition, utilization of mostly heavy machinery, and even manual labor in producing details in the products and in-person inspection of the final product. Since the toy company Mattel first created the Barbie Doll, the doll itself has never actually been manufactured in the United States. The doll is designed in the United States; materials are acquired from other countries; and then they are sent to China (or Indonesia, Malaysia, etc) where the factories use machinery to put the doll together (Giddens, 58). Even though Barbie has been iconized as the ultimate American Barbie doll, Mattel decided to produce the Barbie, along with other Mattel products, in the above-mentioned Asian countries because the costs of labor in these low-wage countries are much lower than the United States. Although this requires more embodied energy in creating the product (material acquisition from different countries, shipping energy, etc.), it is cheaper for Mattel as a company.
From my research, I learned that Barbie dolls are made by using a rotational molding machine in China or Indonesia for their method of producing the separate limbs of the doll. There were not any specifics about what was the brand of Mattel’s machinery used to produce their toys due to proprietary reasons. So, I researched equipment that could possibly be used by Mattel to produce Barbie to get a rough estimate of embodied energy from these machines. Shenzhen AoMeiDa Machinery Equipment Co. Ltd. is a top rotational molding supplier in Shenzhen, China that specializes in producing plastic toys, such as PVC toys like Barbie. These rotational molding machines burn coal, vapor and are semi-automatic and are eco-friendly, meaning that they do not use as much power because they are energy saving. This type of machine would keep production costs low. Shenzhen AoMeiDa Machinery Equipments’s rotational molding machine requires, when rotated, 380 Volts and the rotation power is about 0.75Kilawatts. Coal consumption is 1.1-1.5 L/hour and 50kg/day (Gao). Even though it does not officially say this machine is used to make Barbie dolls, it is an assumption that this or a similar machine probably was used and required just as much energy as the actual rotational molding machines used for Barbie dolls to create the Polyvinyl Chlorine (PVC) body parts.
At the end of the manufacturing part of the “life cycle” process in the production of Barbie dolls, a total of 188 grams of raw and processed materials were used to create one doll. This product’s life expectancy is estimated to last up to about 3 years. The entire manufacturing process, which uses mostly the molding machinery, uses up to 101,830,000 Joules to produce Mattel’s Barbie (Igragotta). If you look at it, manufacturing alone takes up 85% of the total embodied energy during the life cycle process. It first begins with a separate compounding operation which is required to convert the plastics into a form of a resin that is suitable for the molding process and also adding other additives. Common plastics, such as Polyvinyl Chloride requires 6,476,400 Joules to process 62 grams of this material (Idragotta). The next step is probably the most energy consuming and majority of the production, the molding.
The main molding process used to create Barbie dolls is Rotational Molding, which is also known as Rotomolding or rotational casting. This is a type of thermo machine that uses high and low temperatures to shape and form PVC and it is one of the fastest growing plastic processing methods. Rotational molding’s primary use is for the production of hollow and seamless products of all possible sizes and shapes with even and uniform wall thickness, producing products that other thermo machines cannot. Hollowed bodies are formed by using resin, powder plastic, in the process and using it to fill metal mold cavities with a set amount of the compound, in liquid form. Each metal mold consists of multiple cavities and the quantities of dolls that are produced depend on the size of the doll. The molds are closed and then heated. In the molding process the ovens are powered by natural gasses and have blowers to help distribute the heat evenly in the chamber. These ovens can also use other forms of fuels to generate heat such as oil or propane gas. The average temperature that the ovens reach is between 400-800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 270-454 degrees Celsius. All the resin is melted onto the surface of the mold into layers and creates a thick plastic wall layer that is determined by the amount of resin that was determined at the beginning of the molding process. During the heat process, the resin melts, fuses, and then densifies into the shape of the mold cavity. The molds must be rotated during when it is heated so it allows for the resin to travel across the cavity surface to allow for a thick and even wall. The machine rotates biaxially which means that it is rotated around two axels. If the mold has been in the oven for too long then the plastic will degrade and ruin the quality of the plastic making it weaker. But if the mold isn’t heated long enough then the plastic will not be complete in form, shape, size, and thickness. After the heat process the mold undergoes a cooling stage. The hot mold is placed in a chamber where forced air and water systems are used to cool it down, but in most manufacturing processes they may only use just air most likely to keep production costs lower. When the molds are cooled enough they are then removed from the chambers where they are then opened to reveal the finished molded component that will be parts of Barbie that will be put together. There are other methods of also that some may use such as blow molding. When there is an issue in costs toy companies resort to this method to make the torso because it is faster and less expensive. In this process a parison, hollow tube, is formed from plastic that is melted into a tubular form that is then placed in between two halves of steel molds. Air pressured is then forced into this plastic tube which expands it, forcing the tube to take shape and mold against the metal cavity. The amount of pressure used for this process is around 80-120 psi. After the mold is complete, from any molding method, the flange and other undesirable parts are trimmed off. Mattel most likely uses rotational molding machines mostly because of the advantages it has over other thermo machinery. This method is less expensive because of the simplicity of the process of heating and cooling resin in a mold to get the desired material, along with less tools and other equipment needed. The machines require relatively low pressures and powers which will resort in less energy and production costs. It is great for mass production because metal molds can be made to have multiple sets of cavities (“A Guide to Rotational Molding;” “Plastic Doll”). Rotational molding and blow molding are clear examples of where a lot of embodied energy is required because of the high-use and the complexity of the machines. In the manufacturing process of Barbie dolls, the next step is to assemble the mold and apply details to make it into Barbie.
The head is the first mold that is worked on after the molding process. The details and coloring of the hair and facial features are applied and must be completed before the doll is assembled together with the rest of its limbs and body parts. Barbie’s face is painted and detailed by individuals and specialized machines depending on what is being added on. The eyes are inserted into the head while the lips and cheeks are spray painted carefully with common water-based paint. This process of using and adding water-based paint is estimated to use roughly 2,595 Joules (Idragotta). It requires a great deal of handcrafting skills when it comes to a couple steps in preparing the head. After the face, the hair is carefully trimmed and combed and set into the desired style, which is influenced by decisions during the design process (Burns). If the hair is not molded into the head they take a specialized sewing machine that is operated by hand to sew the nylon into the vinyl. Once the head is complete it is ready to be attached to the body along with the other limbs to complete the Barbie doll body figure (“Plastic Doll”).
The body is now ready for getting dressed and packaging which is also the final inspection of the product. Once they dress the dolls by hand they look around to see once again if there is any remaining flange that needs to be trimmed off. Also, during this time is when they add any special labels or tags on the Barbie. They are packaged into cardboard boxes by hand because they need to be set in the desired pose in order to make the product look more appealing or to go along with the product theme if there is one (Alexander). The only part of Barbie that is actually made in the United States would be the cardboard packaging, which according to Idragotta, takes up 31 grams (839,700 Joules of embodied energy). The box designs are determined by the very same people who design her outfit so that way the overall display will fancy and appealing to attract young girls. Before distributing the product and package are scrutinized for a final time for flaw and to see if it meets the safety regulation policies of the Unites States Consumer Product Safety Commission (“Plastic Doll”).
After the Barbie dolls are manufactured in the China factories like the one in the city of Shenzhen, they are sent by trucks to Hong Kong, which is one of the largest ports in the world. About 23,000 trucks make the daily trip between Hong Kong and these factories (Giddens, 58). From Hong Kong, they are again shipped overseas about 13,904 kilometers to the United States, and then distributed to retailers through domestic trucking. There is a lot of high embodied energy in this part of the life-cycle because of high oil usage from transportation. The transportation process takes approximately 653,432 Joules (Idragotta).
Ultimately, Barbie dolls are either kept by collectors, re-used/maintained, or end up being thrown away. There are numerous tutorials online that teach consumers how to restore Barbie dolls. Disposal in landfills take up 16,918 Joules of embodied energy (Idragotta). Since Barbie dolls are largely composed of PVC, it might not be the smartest option to just throw them away. PVC is often not easily recyclable. “PVC lasts for years in landfills, and releases toxins that can get into water sources. When burned as opposed to buried, it releases chloride into the atmosphere” (Ngan).
At the start of my research it was very difficult to find the information that was directly about, or useful in explaining, the amount of embodied energy that went into the entire life cycle in the production of Barbie dolls. My most successful finding during my research, that was relevant about the embodied energy used, was a list that described all the materials and amount, in grams, that were processed and used for the manufacturing of Barbie dolls and also provided the amount of joules that went into producing each separate material. I was happy that I had found the information that answers what my topic is mainly about, but at the same time it seemed useless to me because the information was extremely vague. I was not able to reiterate about what happened to or how the energy was used in the life cycle process with this information alone. At this point it became frustrating because I wasn’t able to find out how each material was processed. I was hoping if I researched and discovered what machines processed the materials I would have a better idea and can make an assumption that the machine probably required the amount of joules that I found in my research from earlier. This information was not available probably because they are a business and have proprietary rights that legally allow them to hide some facts about how they manufacture their products, which probably includes specific details about what machines they use specifically. Also, from reading the info of materials and embodied energy there were some parts that did not make sense. It would mention a material that claims to have not existed, reading it as zero grams, but shows that it used joules during the life cycle process of the Barbie doll. This just reminded me how frustrating this vague information was. The only reasonable assumption that I can make was that the information was definitely referring the life cycle process of one Barbie doll, in terms of materials, but when it comes to transportation I can deduce that the amount of embodied energy required and presented most likely was for a shipment of mass orders which exact numbers I cannot make out. After this experience I felt that out of the three subject areas of a life cycle, embodied energy was the most difficult because the answers are not that easy to find.
I began my research by using the internet Google search so I can get an idea of what to research. After much attempts with little success I began to start using the university library data base hoping that I will find academic articles and journals that were helpful and reliable source. As I began my research and typed in anything with the word “Barbie” I would often get articles that were mainly about the social impact caused by Mattel’s toy-super icon has had mainly on girls. Topics that involve girls social and health behavior because of Barbie’s influence it has on playing the role of a beautiful adult female that is popular, known by everyone and is always wearing the fashion styles that are currently popular when she created. There wasn’t so much information about the production process of Barbie that I was hoping for to expand research. I feel like not too many people would want to do a complete research and make an academic article or journal because of the assumption that not a lot of people would find it useful.
I felt like I was at a dead end because my ideas for the research assignment have not been going so well. My best chance was to start all over and to rethink how I am going to find information that will help me answer and explain the embodied energy used in the life cycle process of Barbie dolls. I began to look into detail overall about Barbie thinking that I would get an idea of where to start once I research basic stuff about this toy. I began to find a lot of information about how Barbie was created and how it has stayed in American culture for 50 years and has become the image of being America’s most popular toy ever. I than finally found some information about manufacturing processes for Barbie. At first I thought that it was useless because it still did not tell me exactly where the embodied energy I saw from the list went to. But I had no choice but to look into it and got the idea that from further research I can most likely learn about the processes and find additional information so I can make assumptions about where did that embodied energy go. From there I was able to correlate the processes and my earlier information. I was not able to find an answer for all the materials from embodied energy that I found earlier but I made a big improvement and was able to write about more than half of them. I explained how Barbie was produced and when it was relevant I explained that during a certain process it required a certain amount of joules that was the embodied energy that went into the product life cycle. At this point I knew that the internet was going to help me a lot more than the university online library was. With the internet there were many topics that were easier to narrow down. Even though a lot of articles were generally the same they were all different in their little details. Those little details from each article read help me construct and idea of everything that I was looking for in the life cycle process that can help me answer what I am researching.
From my research I had to use various amounts of information that did not directly talk about the embodied energy that went into the production life cycle of a Barbie doll. However, through further research of interesting topics about the entire production of Barbie I was able to narrow down specific production processes that I identified and helped me to explain which processes the embodied energy end up going to and how much of it was required din the Barbie’s product life cycle.
“A Guide To Rotational Molding.” Equistar: A Lyondell Company, PDF file. 16 Mar 2012. <http://www.lyondellbasell.com/techlit/techlit/Brochures/Guide%20to%20Rotational%2 0Molding%205717.pdf>.
Alexander, Ashley. Barbie Product Life Cycle. 17 Dec 2012. Presentation. PreziWeb. 13 Mar 2013. <http://prezi.com/vcqtmlikdim_/barbie-product-life-cycle/>.
Burns, Elizabeth. "How Are Barbie Dolls Manufactured." Mattel Games. 17 Dec 2012. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://mattelgames.danielcadams.com/how-are-barbie-dolls-manufactured/>.
Gao, Yousheng. “Rotational Moulding Machine For Making PVC Doll.” Alibaba. Shenzhen Aomeida Machinery Equipment Co., Ltd., 2013. Web 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.alibaba.com/product- gs/580715546/Rotational_Moulding_Machine_For_Making_PVC.html>.
Giddens, Anthony. Sociology. Malden: Polity Press, 2006. Google books. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://books.google.com/books?id=vbu2gis26C0C&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=what+is +barbie+body+made+of+plastic+pvc&source=bl&ots=GYkHesKQEs&sig=ktsflc3gpSUf BPMt1xlM6VRaHXM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=s4xAUcG3Ba6GyQHO_4G4CQ&ved=0CEA Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=what%20is%20barbie%20body%20made%20of%20plasticd %20pvc&f=false>.
Idragotta, Saul. "Barbie Doll." WattzOn. Synthesis Studios, 11 Feb 2009. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://legacy.wattzon.com/stuff/items/k7bvc9lzh9i12mx5bc4xzr3ibe/kb07ewjiyb6stw9i c4qo35sb42>.
Lagler, Marc. "Barbie's Manufacturers Markings." Marcdolls Barbie. Marcdolls, 7 Feb 2013. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.marcdolls.ch/engbarbiemarkierung.html>.
Ngan, Jeff. "Recycled Love." The Barbie Standard. WordPress, 12 Sept 2012. Web. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://thebarbiestandard.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/5-recycled-love/>.
"Plastic Doll." How Products Are Made. Made How. Web. 13 Mar 2013. <http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Plastic-Doll.html>.
Shahani, Priyanka. "Mattel - Barbie Doll." Northern India Engineering College I.P. University. Powerpoint. 13 Mar 2012. <http://www.slideshare.net/priyanka2004bbe/mattel-barbie- doll>
13 March 2013
Wastes and emissions of the Barbie life cycle
Barbie is a complex doll, made of more than twenty different pieces, all assembled in a Mattel factory. During the journey from creative vision to a toy on the shelf, which can take anywhere from three to eighteen months, the company creates byproducts and wastes.
The Barbie body parts are constructed out of plastic, molded by a revolving machine. With the exception of vintage and collectible dolls, which use different formulas, the parts are formed primarily from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Other materials used are ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA, for Barbie’s arms, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) for her torso, polypropylene for the bend in her legs, hard vinyl for her head (Lord 298).
PVC, the most abundant substance in Barbie, is a thermoplastic material and has become a universal polymer due to widespread commercial use (Sadat-Shojai 404). However, it is difficult to recycle polyvinyl chloride, due to both its abundance and its potentially dangerous contents, which pose some environmental concerns. In recent years, recycling initiatives have increased the tonnage of recycled polyvinyl chloride; for example, there was a 30% increase from 2007 to 2008 when 194,000 tons were recycled, compared to 149,000 the previous year (405).
There are four ways to deal with PVC waste: putting it in a landfill, incinerating it, or recycling it through mechanical or chemical processes (406). Mechanical recycling yields the best results, but it is difficult because PVC materials are sensitive to environment, including “continuous changes in its morphological structures and properties during the processing of PVC” (406). It is also a challenging process because PVC is often mixed in with other wastes and plastics, which can be incompatible polymers or have different melting points and melt flow rates (412). Because of these difficulties, PVC is simply not being reused - though we are globally making an effort, no current methods are totally satisfactory in recycling polyvinyl chloride.
This is a waste problem because PVC products like Barbie are likely to end up in landfills. The average lifespan of a PVC product is 30-40 years (414). Since Barbie just turned 50, some of the earlier dolls’ lifespans are coming to an end (Sherman). While this is not an issue now, because not as many units were sold forty years ago, it has the potential to create problems in the future. Currently, three Barbies are sold every second - in forty years, that equals 950 million Barbies headed towards a landfill each year (Sherman). As our supply of viable land is limited, it is important to try to reduce the amount of PVC headed towards the landfill.
The other currently viable option for Barbie disposal is incineration. During incineration, polyvinyl chloride releases HCI, CO, PAHs, and PCDD/F (Stec 65). These effluents are undesirable for several reasons. HCI, or hydrochloric acid, is generated when Barbies are burned, and has been linked to acid rain (Lord 298). CO, or carbon monoxide, is an “asphyxiant gas” that causes respiratory problems (Stec 65). PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, can also be inhaled and absorbed into the body through the lungs; PAHs are known to be carcinogenic pollutants (Stec 66). PCDDs, or polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, and PCDFs, or polychlorinated dibenzofurans, are also byproducts of burning polyvinyl chloride. Several studies have been conducted that show that dioxin isomers are carcinogenic and “produce mutagenic effects” (Stec 66). Incineration produces pollutants that harm the environment as well as individual humans.
However, Barbie is not all bad. PVC on its own is not a suitable material for Barbie, so dolls also contain additives like plasticizers, which soften PVC and make it more flexible. Mattel switched from phthalates, a harmful plasticizer which is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” to DINCH, which is produced by an eco-conscious German company (“Phthalates.”) BASF, the manufacturer of Hexamoll DINCH, determined through an intensive study that DINCH is “the most eco-efficient plasticizer, with the lowest overall environmental impact” even though it is slightly more expensive (Effinger 2).
The second material used to create Barbie is ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA. As a waste plastic, EVA does not produce toxic effluents during softening, an “eco-friendly and economic process” (Vasudevan 311). There is not a lot of literature on EVA, and it makes up a small part of Barbie’s overall composition, but dealing with waste ethylene vinyl acetate seems to be an environmentally friendly process.
ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is used to construct Barbie’s torso. ABS, like PVC, is difficult to recycle given that when it is tossed in the recycling bin, it is rarely pure ABS. Other contaminants make it harder to purify and recycle ABS; currently, researchers are looking into separating ABS from other plastics via dissolved air flotation. The experiment was successful “when using 25mgL−1 tannic acid, 5mgL−1 terpineol, 15min conditioning time and 15min flotation time... and the purity and recovery rate of w-ABS in the depressed products was 97.24%” (Wang 1297). While there is a solution for purifying ABS, there are often pollutants in ABS resin manufacturing wastewater (Lai 161). An analysis of ABS resin wastewater revealed that the water contained five highly toxic compounds, 25 moderately toxic compounds, and 2 mildly toxic compounds, indicating the wastewater “could not be discharged into the receiving water directly” (164). It is unclear if Mattel purifies its wastewater; due to the amount of regulations and pressure such a high-profile company is subject to, it seems reasonable that Mattel is not dumping toxic waste into water supplies and purifies their wastewater containing ABS resin.
Barbie’s torso also contains thermoplastic elastomers in addition to ABS; these styrenic block copolymers are produced by GLS Corp and allow Barbie to bend at the waist (Ogando 64). Mattel uses an elastomer with 10 Shore A durometer, an “Ultrasoft” grade that “almost has the softness of foam” (64). According to their website, GLS Corp is “committed to preventing pollution, minimizing the impact that our products and activities have on the environment, and complying with applicable environmental regulations” (“About PolyOne GLS Thermoplastic Elastomers”).
Barbie is also made out of hard vinyl and polypropylene. Polypropylene is obtained by cracking naphtha, or crude oil light distillate (“Polypropylene”). Hard vinyl is similar to PVC, but does not contain chloride and therefore does not release carcinogenic substances like dioxins (Stec 66). Hard vinyl and polypropylene are both recyclable and probably do not pose any major environmental concerns, due to a lack of literature available linking either material to toxicity or environmental harm.
Once assembled, Barbie’s plastic parts are decorated with face paint and hair. For the purposes of brevity, this paper will omit Barbie’s many outfits and accessories; over 105 million yards of fabric alone have been used to clothe America’s favorite doll since she was created in 1959, to say nothing of the long, drawn-out process visualizing, manufacturing, and managing the wastes created by Barbie’s extensive closet (Sherman). Barbie’s face paint is currently water-based, a more environmentally friendly alternative to the solvent-based paint that was previously used by Mattel (Ogando 64). Her hair is currently made of rooted synthetic fiber, an update to vintage Barbie’s saran hair, which is more harmful for the environment since it is non-recyclable (“Frequently Asked Recycling Questions”).
However, the materials used to create vintage and collectible Barbie dolls are different than the materials Mattel uses to make normal Barbies. Vintage Barbies used to contain a specific type of PVC that, if exposed to certain conditions over many years, can leak plasticides and make Barbie look greasy and/or sticky (“Malibu Barbie, Holiday Barbie...Toxic Barbie?”). Vintage Barbie dolls used to be made out of porcelain, but Mattel has switched to a custom PBT formula called Silkstone (Ogando 64). Because PBT is much more impact resistant than porcelain, this cuts down on the elaborate foam wraps needed to surround the doll, and subsequently minimizes packaging waste (64).
PBT, or polybutylene terephthalate, is a thermoplastic polymer; Mattel buys its Silkstone PBT from BASF, the same company that manufactures DINCH (64). It has been shown that post-consumer-derived PBT works just as well as the original, unused polybutylene terephthalate, so it is obviously environmentally friendly (Fonesca 87). Additionally, BASF, the manufacturer of Silkstone PBT, is committed to the “concept of integrated waste management, and promotes this approach not only through its products but through technologies and expertise” (“About Us”). BASF examines the entire lifecycle of all its products, and has developed a unique process to recover and purify used plastics (“About Us”).
Overall, the materials used to create Barbie are eco-conscious (or on their way, in the case of polyvinyl chloride). While wastes are generated, as with the creation of any product, they can be dealt with fairly easily.
This paper addresses each material in Barbie individually, because I was unable to find any information about the wastes created by Mattel during the process. I tried to cover all aspects of Barbie’s body. Instead of discussing the waste products generated by Barbie herself, I talked about potential wastes of her components, and where Mattel was transparent about their supplier, I researched their supplier’s sustainability. It is important to note that the sum of parts is not the same thing as the completed product. There might be a different method of recycling Barbie dolls specifically, or a way to extract and separate out all the different plastics in her body. If such a method exists, I was unable to find it.
Additionally, I was unable to find information about the waste that Mattel itself produces when manufacturing Barbie dolls. While I assume Mattel treats the wastewater contaminated with ABT resin, that is the furthest I got on the subject. Mattel did publish a report in 2008 discussing how they are making the company more sustainable, but the report deals mainly with Hot Wheels, packaging, and energy-efficient light bulbs (“Playing Responsibly: 2009 Global Citizenship Report” 32). The report did mention, however, that in 2008 sixty-one tons of excess plastic had been reclaimed and reused in the manufacturing process (33). Their total energy consumption has remained constant in the past few years, but their carbon dioxide emissions have increased slightly from under 1.4 million metric tons in 2004 to over 1.5 million metric tons in 2008 (36). The report also indicated that Mattel usually generates approximately 2,000 metric tons of hazardous waste per year (as well as about 20,000 metric tons of non-hazardous waste) (37). However, this includes all of Mattel. While no one can deny the lasting impact Barbie has had, it is not Mattel’s sole venture, so the amount of waste generated from Barbie herself is unknown.
It was difficult to track down specific numbers for Mattel, but judging by the analysis of individual components of Barbie and total waste emissions, I feel it is fair to assume that while Barbie is obviously not waste-free, she is somewhat sustainable. Mattel has made an effort to be environmentally friendly, like when they switched from solvent-based paint to water-based paint, even if they are not open about what the exact numbers are. They do business with eco-efficient companies like BASF and GLS Corp, which indicates that they are trying to minimize their impact on the environment.
Despite the difficulty tracking waste created specifically by Mattel, this research project was successful. After extensive reading and examination of applicable literature, I have concluded that while Barbie does have some issues that could cause environmental problems down the road, she is well on her way to becoming a more sustainable toy. The process of creating Barbie is a complicated one, so Mattel obviously produces wastes and byproducts; however, it is reasonable to assume - given their report and an analysis of the materials used - that Mattel is conscious of the environmental issues addressed in this paper, and is moving towards a solution.
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