6 December 2018
Electric Kettle Life Cycle Analysis: Materials
Electric kettles are a common kitchen appliance used to boil water for brewing tea or powdered drinks along with cooking ramen and other instant foods. The device must be plugged into an electric socket in order to work. When the consumer presses the “on” switch electricity flows to power the coils stored in the bottom component to heat the water sitting in the kettle. The Hamilton Beach Electric Kettle 40901 has a steel body with plastic components and electric cord. The electric kettle has a larger negative environmental impact than the stove top kettle because the larger variety in raw materials calls for more processes in the acquisition of materials, manufacturing, and recycling.
The electrical kettle requires more processes in the acquisition stage because it is made up of more raw materials than the stove top kettle, but both contain steel and rubber. The electric kettle is composed of steel, low density polyethylene (LDPE), rubber, copper, brass, and zinc. Steel is used to make the body of the water pitcher. LDPE is used for the handle, lid, buttons, bottom casing, heating component casing, and the outside of the electrical cord and plug. Rubber is used for the feet of the kettle, which elevates it from the surface. Copper, bass, and zinc are used in the electrical cord and plug. The stove top kettle only contains steel and rubber. The whole kettle is made of steel, and the rubber is used for the handle cover.
Stainless steel makes up the body, or the pitcher part, of the electric kettle. Stovetop kettles are entirely made up of stainless steel. Rocks containing iron ores are mined from open-pit iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota, according to the USGS. Rocks containing iron ore are then refined and ores are extracted by magnetic rollers. Iron ore and carbon are heated together in a blast furnace to create pig iron, which is also known as molten iron. There are two different furnaces that can be used to produce steel: basic oxygen furnaces and electric arc furnaces. Basic oxygen furnaces require molten iron ore to be mixed with steel scrap and alloys to produce steel. For electric arc furnaces, recycled steel scrap is directly melted into new steel (“From Ore to Steel”, n.a.). The molten steel is created from the furnace(s) and then casted into slabs for flat sheets, blooms for rectangular shapes, billets for round or square shapes, and rods. Steel sheets are primarily used in the manufacturing of the electric kettle, as seen in the video “China electric kettle factory”. Hot rolling, a forming technique where heated steel is passed through huge rolls, is used to shape slabs into plates, strips, and sheets. The next step is annealing, in which the steel is heated and cooled to relieve internal stresses and soften the metal; in some cases, it can be used to make the steel stronger. However, annealing causes scales and build up to form on the steel. Descaling can be performed in two ways, the first being pickling, where steel is put into a nitric-hydrofluoric acid bath, and the second being electrocleaning, where an electric current is applied to the surface of the steel through a cathode and phosphoric acid. For steel sheets and strips, cold rolling, a process where steel is passed through rolls at a low temperature, is done to make the sheet thinner. Afterwards, the steel sheets and strips are annealed and descaled again. Next, the sheets are cold rolled and cut into desired shapes. Finally, the steel is polished and a surface finish is applied to the steel. The Hamilton Beach Electric Kettle 40901 has a bright and shiny surface, which is accomplished by hot rolling then cold rolling polished rolls (“Stainless Steel”).
The electric kettle requires heat resistant plastics, such as polyethylene (LDPE), for the plastic buttons, displays, handle, lid, bottom casing, and electrical cord (“Electric Tea Kettle”). Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is created under high pressure at moderate temperatures (Lazonby). The process is called rapid polymerization, and it requires oxygen and ethene to work. Ethene itself is produced by heating natural gas or petroleum (Carey).
The bottom of the electric kettle is elevated off the ground/surface by three rubber feet so that the surface does not suffer from heat damage (Stewart). Synthetic rubber is assumed to be used in the electric kettle, contrary to natural rubber, due to the heat resistant qualities and resistance to abrasion (Labbe). Synthetic rubber is made from oil or coal. The refining process of the two materials produces naphtha, which is then combined with natural gas to produce monomers. Monomers are treated by polymerization to form chains of polymers. The end result is rubber substances. Vulcanization processes these substances into rubber products, such as the electric kettle feet and the stovetop kettle handle cover (“Production of Synthetic Rubber”).
The electrical wires connecting the electric kettle to the power source are made of copper. Copper ores can be found throughout the Earth’s crust as sedimentary or igneous rocks. Chile and the west coast of South America contain the world’s largest copper ore deposits. 90% of copper ores are mined using the open-pit method, compared to the underground method which requires a vertical shaft and horizontal tunnels into the earth. The process of producing copper starts with crushing the ore using cylindrical ball mills. Next, the powdered ore is combined with paraffin oil, which is used to waterproof the particles. The mixture is placed into a water bath and foaming agent solution which creates a frothy liquid bath. The copper minerals get caught in the bubbles/ froth at the top and the undesirable rocks fall to the bottom of the bath. The ores floating on the surface of the bath are collected and all remaining materials are recycled. The copper ores are roasted to create copper metal. However, a byproduct of this process is sulfur dioxide, which is converted to sulfuric acid to prevent the gas from being released into the environment. Next, calcine is heated with silica or limestone to create a smelter, which removes the impurities. The remaining liquid is copper and iron sulfides, also known as matte. The matte is oxidised, and the result is called blister copper, which is 99% pure copper. The copper is casted, purified by electrolysis, and finally molded into slabs. After electrolytic refinement, the material is 99.99% pure copper (“Copper Mining”).
The power plug of the electrical kettle is composed of brass and nickel plating. Brass is considered a copper alloy because it is a mix of copper and zinc. Zinc is found in the earth’s crust and is mostly mined underground, contrary to open pit mining. The mined zinc is heated and then put through the hydrometallurgical process, which involves leaching, purification, electrolysis, and melting. Emissions to the air is a by product of this process in each step (“Zinc production”). To create brass, copper and zinc are melted together and cooled until a solid state. Similar to the production of copper, the production of brass includes hot rolling, annealing, and cold rolling, respectively, to turn the brass into desired shapes (“Brass”). The nickel plating of the brass in the electric plug of the electric kettle prevents tarnishing and discoloration. Similar to copper, nickel is mined underground, crushed, filtered by floatation, and electro refined (Wise, Edmund).
The variety of materials used in the electric kettle compared to the stove top kettle affects how many and what processes occur in the manufacturing stage. Both kettles require welding, the process of bonding metal together, which also means more new metal (assumed to be steel) is needed (Woodford). Producing the electrical cord involves assembling the raw materials together (copper, low density polyethylene, brass, nickel) but also requires the addition of high density polyethylene (Powell). High density polyethylene is created by applying immense heat to petroleum and casting the liquid-like material into shapes (“How Is HDPE”). As for plastic, it is unclear if the Hamilton Beach uses adhesives such as epoxy to join the plastic to metal. It could be that the plastic is designed to be cut into certain shapes to lock and snap into the metal. One can peer into the electric kettle body and see that the plastic handle and lid are joined by screws, which seem to be made out of steel. This joining mechanism may or not be applied for the other plastic parts, such as the bottom casing and bottom heating component. Judging from the bottom of the electric kettle, the rubber is molded into tiny cylinders to fit into the three small, plastic cylindrical feet.
The stovetop kettle simply involves wielding, shaping, and polishing the steel pieces together (BRANDMADE.TV). There are no new materials added in the manufacturing process. The rubber handle is molded to fit snugly onto the shape of the steel handle. It is not affixed by any adhesive, but instead uses the tactility of rubber itself and the tightness to hold onto the steel. The stove top kettle is more environmentally friendly than the electric kettle because it requires less manufacturing steps due to having fewer materials.
The electric kettle and stove top kettle have the same materials in the distribution and transportation stage because both products are packaged in cardboard boxes and delivered to stores via trucks, which require fuel. Cardboard’s primary materials are pine trees, corn starch, and paraffin wax. Only the trunks of pine trees are used for the production of cardboard, where wood chips are broken down into fibrous pulp. The pulp is shaped, pressed, dried, and rolled to be used in cardboard (“Corrugated Cardboard”). Corn starch is mixed with water and other chemicals to be used as an adhesive for the corrugated medium and outside cardboard sheets.Corn starch is produced through a process called wet milling, where the corn is soaked in water and then put into a centrifuge to separate the different components. The starch that is separated from this process is dried. Paraffin wax is derived from crude oil and is used for the printed outside surface of the cardboard box, which gives it the waxy and shiny finish (“How Is Paraffin”). The second material, fuel, powers the trucks used to transport the kettles. Fuel is derived from crude oil, which is sucked out of the earth’s crust, separated through fractional distillation, mixed with chemicals, and tested to see if the fuel is ready to use (Griffin). Neither the electric nor stove top kettle is better in terms of materials needed in distribution and transportation.
The electric kettle and stove top kettle also share the same material, limestone, in the usage section. Both products rely on a steel water pitcher body. Therefore, both suffer from the same water deposit issues such as limestone. From an environmental standpoint, both kettles are the same, and contain limestone buildup over time.
The electric kettle and stove top kettle undergo similar recycling processes due to the overlapping materials (steel, rubber), but because the electric kettle has a larger variety of materials (and therefore more recycling processes), the stove top kettle is better for the environment. Hamilton Beach offers a recycling program where consumers can mail back their broken Hamilton Beach appliances to be recycled. Hamilton Beach takes care of the recycling process if mailed back, and if not, advises consumers to recycle the electric kettle as an electronic (“Recycling Policy”). It is assumed that Hamilton Beach recycles their electric kettles the same way a recycling plant would, due to the steel body, plastic components, and electrical parts.The materials in the electric kettle, such as steel and plastic, are broken down and extracted to be reused for other products (“Electrical Items”). First, the kettle is broken down. The metals are shredded and sorted using magnets; steel can be smelted and used to make more steel (“Recycling Process”). The plastic is melted and molded into sheets to be sold to other manufacturers (“Hamilton”). Since the electrical cord is composed of metals and plastic, it uses the same recycling processes mentioned. Rubber can can either be re-used or re-melted for other purposes (“Rubber Recycling”). Since the stovetop kettle only contains steel and rubber, recycling it is simpler, and therefore requires less machinery, materials such as magnets, etc. The stovetop kettle is better than the electric kettle in the recycling process because it has less materials.
The electric kettle is worse for the environment because it requires more processes in the acquisition of raw materials, manufacturing, and recycling, due to having more materials than the stove top kettle. However, the materials involved in the distribution and transportation and usage are the same in both the electric kettle and stove top kettle.
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5 December 2018
Embodied Energy in the Process of Hamilton Beach Electric Kettle Production
Humankind has a history of millions of years. During this period, humans began to learn to use fire, through the stone and iron age, until the modern industrial revolution, various technological inventions have brought human civilization to an unprecedented height. At the same time, the energy consumed by humans is also growing. Today, power is the material basis for the survival and development of human society. So we can use this opportunity to explore the energy consumption and impact of modern goods in the process of manufacturing and transportation. The object I observed was the HamiltonBeach electric kettle.
Moreover, in the process, I will focus on describing the environmental impact of energy consumption. Without this, in this article, I will compare the difference in energy consumption between the electric kettle and the stovetop kettle. It should also be mentioned here that when observing the energy use in product development, we tend to focus only on the manufacturing process of the product, ignoring the energy required in the fields of raw material extraction and product transportation. So in this article, we will consider the energy use or overall energy use that is reflected throughout the life cycle of the product.
Acquiring raw materials is the first step in producing products. The HamiltonBeach 40901 electric kettle we refer to is mainly made of plastic, stainless steel, electrical components, and rubber. First, the central part of the electric kettle is made of stainless steel, and a small number of electrical components inside it are made of copper. These metal elements are all derived from iron ore or copper ore. The metal refining process mainly uses the heat energy provided by coal. The most commonly applied process for steel-making is the integrated steel-making process via the Blast Furnace – Basic Oxygen Furnace. In the process, Around 0.6 tonnes (600 kg) of coke produces 1 tonne (1000 kg) of steel, which means that around 770 kg of coal is used to provide 1 tonne of steel through this production route. Also, fuel is a non-renewable energy source. Non-renewable energy has been formed in the natural world for hundreds of millions of years. It cannot be recovered in the short term, and with the large-scale development and utilization, the reserves are getting less and less. The energy that is exhausted for one day is called non-renewable energy. When coal is burned, most of the sulfur is oxidized to sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is emitted with the flue gas, pollutes the atmosphere, endangers movement, plant growth, and human health, and corrodes metal equipment. Next is The process of Ladle Refining. Ladle Refining is a process of refining molten steel in a converter, open-hearth furnace or electric furnace to another vessel (mainly ladle), also called "secondary steelmaking or refining outside the furnace." Furnace refining divides traditional steelmaking into two steps. The first step is called primary refining. The melting, dephosphorization, decarburization and main alloying of the charge is carried out under an oxidizing atmosphere. The second step is called refining, in a vacuum, inert atmosphere — alternatively, deoxidation, desulfurization, removal of inclusions, inclusion denaturation, fine-tuning of components, control of molten steel temperature, etc. under controlled atmosphere. There are dozens of methods for refining outside the furnace, but the primary energy used in this process is the heat or electricity generated by coal. Secondly, a large amount of plastic was used in the manufacture of the Hamilton Beach electric kettle. Plastic is a polymer compound obtained by polymerization of polyaddition or polycondensation reaction using a monomer as a raw material. Most of the plastics we use today are high molecular polymers formed by polymerization of by-products obtained from fossil raw materials such as petroleum. Thermoplastics such as synthetic resins for polyolefin systems are direct products of the petrochemical industry. The production of plastics is produced by high temperature and high-pressure polymerization, which generally requires a large amount of heat and electricity. It takes about 62-108 MJ of energy to produce 1 kg of plastic.
Manufacturing, Processing, and Formulation
In general, the assembly of the electric kettle is done on the production line. This process is mainly divided into two parts. First, the factory needs to shape the raw materials obtained. Second, the developed components are assembled by working with workers and machines. In the first step, the workers first need to melt the steel and then mold the iron into different shapes through the mold. The plastic component has relatively high ductility and can be directly shaped after heating to a certain temperature. The production of plastic products generally includes the formulation, molding, joining, modification and assembly of plastics. The latter four processes are carried out after the plastic has been formed into a product or a semi-finished product, also known as plastic secondary. The method of manufacturing an electric kettle and the energy consumed in this process will far outweigh than the manufacture of a stovetop Kettle. After shaping the part, the next step is to assemble the resulting piece to get the final product. The entire assembly process of the electric kettle mainly consumes electrical energy and the chemical energy of the human body itself. By comparing the manufacture of the stovetop kettle, we can see that it takes more energy to make the electric kettle. Because the material needed to produce a stove kettle is almost just iron.
Distribution and transportation
The transportation process of the product also aggregates massive energy consumption. From the production of raw materials to assembly, and finally to the mall, there will be much energy consumption during the period. An airplane train or car transports goods from the factory to the mall. So, this part will consume fuel, which is chemical energy. Hamilton Beach's facility is located in Canada, and its products are sold to the US, Mexico and many other countries. Therefore, the Hamilton Beach electric kettle will go through a long journey after leaving the factory to reach the consumers. The transportation process of the product consumes a lot of fossil fuels, and it also brings a lot of pollution and carbon emissions. We use Boeing 747 as an example. A plane like a Boeing 747 uses approximately 1 gallon of fuel (about 4 liters) every second. Over the course of a 10-hour flight, it might burn 36,000 gallons (150,000 liters). According to Boeing's Web Site, the 747 consumes approximately 5 gallons of fuel per mile (12 liters per kilometer).
The energy consumption of the Hamilton Beach electric kettle during use is relatively stable. Under normal circumstances, the function of the electric kettle is to heat the water under normal temperature to boiling. Since the electric kettle we chose does not have a thermal insulation function, it does not require too complicated considerations. The electric kettle averaged around 1200 watts and took 125 seconds to boil the water, which translates to 0.04 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity consumed. The problem with a stove kettle is twofold; the heat needs to be transferred from the element to the pot, and then the pot needs to warm up before passing that energy to the water. It is already clear that the electric kettle is more efficient than the stove kettle.
Recycling and Waste Management
The central recyclable part of the HamiltonBeach electric kettle is plastic and metal fittings. The recycling of plastics and metals helps to save a lot of energy and natural resources, as these are the main ingredients needed to make raw plastics. Saving oil, water, and other natural resources help to protect the balance of nature. According to the survey, the US recycling rate of plastics in 2015 was 9.1%. Some of them can be used for combustion and power generation, becoming one of the sources of energy. The United States also recycles 150 million metric tons of scrap materials annually, including 85 million tons of iron and steel, 5.5 million tons of aluminum, 1.8 million tons of copper, 2 million tons of stainless steel, 1.2 million tons of lead and 420,000 tons of zinc. Recycling scrap metal reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated during various smelting and processing operations used in the manufacture of minerals from raw ore. At the same time, the energy used is much smaller. Energy savings from the use of various recycled metals are up to:
- Copper is 90%
- Steel is 56%
There is also data showing that by recycling steel, the amount of energy saved is enough to provide 18 million households with a full year of electricity.
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Waste - Life Cycle Project Bibliography
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4 December 2018
Electric Kettle Life Cycle Analysis : Waste and Emissions
Convenience, safety, and sustainability. Many consumers cite these as the reason they choose an electric kettle over a traditional stove kettle to heat their water. Electric kettles are designed to have a pitcher connected to a base that has an integrated heating element. This heating element uses a material with high resistance to heat up as an electric current flows through it, which heats the water in contact to boil. Newer electric kettles use a thermostat to shut off the heating element when it reaches a certain temperature for safety. We will focus on the Hamilton Beach 40901 Electric Kettle because it is a simple example of an electric kettle that demonstrates the advantages over a traditional kettle by implementing a removable pitcher and automatic shutoff switch. The use of a heating element allows electric kettles to boil water faster than traditional kettles and the automatic shutoff prevents pressure buildup in the pitcher and boiling dry. Convenience and safety can be easily demonstrated and compared through consumer use, but showing an advantage in sustainability is more complex. Sustainability has to be measured by looking at the impact the product has on the environment, both in the creation and use of the product. While an electric kettle is ten percent more energy efficient consumes less energy to boil water, we must take the full life cycle of the product into account, including the acquisition of raw materials, refinement, production, total energy use, transportation, and disposal, and the wastes and emissions related to these processes to assess how sustainable it really is (Carini 2011). When analyzing the full life cycle of the electric kettle against a traditional stove top kettle, the electric kettle is actually less environmentally friendly.
The first step in the creation of a product is the acquisition of raw materials for production. The most general electric kettles are made of steel, low density plastics, electrical components, and rubber(Stewart 2011). Mining is used to extract iron for steel and zinc, copper, and tin for electrical components, while fracking is used to acquire oil and natural gas for low density plastics and synthetic rubber. Mining and fracking both create waste byproducts and emissions from machinery used. Mining byproducts include waste rock, loose minerals called tailings, and mine water (Chaturvedi 2016). Waste rock is usually non toxic and can be disposed of or repurposed easily, while tailings and mine water can contain toxic, harmful elements ,“fuel spills, flotation reagents, cleaning solutions, and other chemicals” which need to be properly contained or treated to prevent environmental damage through water and soil pollution (Chaturvedi 2016). Fracking uses water mixed with chemicals and other particles to release oil and natural gas. Byproducts produced in fracking include produced waters and fracking fluid returns, which can contain industrial chemicals with “high concentrations of sodium, magnesium, iron, barium, strontium, manganese, methanol, chloride, sulfate”(Sunshine 2018) and hydrocarbons like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (Sunshine 2018). These chemicals can be freed into the environment as flowback and produced during the drilling process and are considered hazardous waste. The machines that are used in mining and fracking also create greenhouse gas emissions. The next step in production is the refinement of these raw materials into secondary raw materials.
Refinement of primary raw materials and secondary raw materials is essential in creating higher quality parts in products. The production of electric kettles require refinement of iron for steel and refinement of oil or natural gas for synthetic rubber and low density plastics like polypropylene or polyethylene. Steel production creates many byproducts including slag, dust, sludge, mill scale, iron oxide, iron sulphate, metal hydroxide sludge, ferric chloride, zinc, tar, benzene and sulphur (Blixt 2018). Many of these materials can be repurposed or reused in smelting other metals or sold to other industries like electronics production. About 21% of steel production byproducts are sent to landfills (Blixt 2018). The other metals used like zinc, copper, and tin are also refined and produce greenhouse gases, but not at the level at which it takes to refine iron to steel. The production of the plastics used in kettles like polypropylene, polyethylene, and synthetic rubber create emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons (Natural Resources Canada). The refinement of raw materials to steel and plastics create CO2 emissions with the processes and machinery used in refinement. These refined materials are then sent to factories where they are cut and shaped for assembly.
Assembly of materials is done by workers aided by machines. Workers cut and weld steel sheets, shape plastics and rubber, install electrical components, and fit parts together. Most solid waste is produced during the cutting and fitting of parts like excess steel or plastics that can be reused in future production or recycled. Steel clippings are sold to steel foundries and waste plastics are reground and used in other productions to keep quality high. The machines in the factory also create greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions. These factories are located in China and need to be transported to the United States for distribution.
Since 2012, Hamilton Beach has contracted all production to manufacture in China. We assume the transportation of electric kettles from China to distribution centers in the United States is done by cargo or freighter shipping because of the size of the electric kettle and lower cost compared to air shipping. Cargo and freight ships use bunker fuel to power their engines, which contain 2000 times more sulfur than diesel used in automobiles(Evans 2009). The consumption of this fuel by cargo ships releases emissions that include CO2, NO2, SO2, CO, and hydrocarbons and particles like BC, SO4, OC, and ash (Eyring 2005). Many of these are classified as greenhouse gases and contribute to the global warming. Once in the United States, the kettles also need to be shipped to the distribution center and then to retailers. This can be done through trains or trucks which also burn fuels that create similar emissions and greenhouse gases at a lower scale. Once the retailer sells the kettle, the consumer will use it to boil water with electricity as a power source.
Electric kettles use electricity to power the heating element that boils the water. In the United States, almost 70% of the electricity generated is created by burning coal (EIA 2018). Burning coal releases emission like SO2, NOx, CO2, mercury, smog, and some metals (UCS 2017). Methane is also released when coal is extracted. The scale at which we burn coal to produce electricity is a major factor in the production of greenhouse gases and global warming. The other emission are also linked to damages in the environment and respiratory illnesses. Other sources of electricity also include burning natural gas, petroleum, renewable sources, and nuclear.
Once the electric kettle is damaged or broken, it can be disposed of through landfills or recycling. We will assume it will be most likely recycled because it is made of mostly recyclable materials. Recycling the electric kettle involves transportation to domestic or international recycling centers, disassembly, and transportation to foundries, factories, or reject landfills. The parts rejected by recycling plants are not biodegradable as they are mostly plastics or metals that have been contaminated. All these processes require the burning of fuel or electric so they would create greenhouses gasses like CO2 and some particles as emissions depending on the fuel used (Turner 2015).
To determine how sustainable the electric kettle is compared to the traditional stove top kettle, we must look into the life cycle and processes needed to create, use, and dispose of it. The life cycle is filled the production of emissions including greenhouse gases, harmful particles, and other solid wastes that can harm the environment through soil and water pollution, but also includes many places were byproducts can be reused or repurposed. We can assume the electric kettle production to be similar to the traditional kettle because of the materials used except for the added components. The main difference in waste would be in energy use, material, and production. Electric kettles are 10% more energy efficient than traditional stove top kettles when used to boil water, but have more wastes and emissions due to the added materials, like metals for electronics and oil or natural gas for plastics, and the processes these extra materials go through (Jacobson 2017). The wastes and emissions generated from the extraction, refinement, and transportation of these extra materials outweigh the reduction in waste and emissions in electricity production through energy efficiency. Through analyzing the life cycle of an electric kettle, we can determine that the electric kettle is actually more environmentally harmful than the traditional stovetop kettle because of the extra wastes and emissions generated to add the defining features of convenience, safety, and energy efficiency to the electric kettle.
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