Of the vast range of human activities, without doubt industrial activity has the most significant effect on the environment. The main environmental issues concerned can be summarized as: controlling and limiting the consumption of resources, avoiding the saturation of waste dumps, achieving maximum energy conservation in production processes, reducing as much as possible all types of emission whether inherent to the process or accidental, and intensifying the processes for the recovery of resources.

Increasing awareness of environmental issues has recently materialized in a move toward the optimization of production systems to ensure an improved level of product eco-compatibility. This process has led to the spreading of Industrial Ecology concept, inspired by a kind of ecological metaphor linking natural and industrial systems, that in recent years has rapidly evolved into a systematic study, based on a holistic approach, of the processes making up the whole life cycle of artifacts, from production to retirement.
Furthermore, this new point of view stimulated the development of a new methodological approach to product design, known as Design for Environment (or Green Design, Ecodesign). According to this approach, the most effective interventions guaranteeing the compatibility of an industrial product with the environment are those undertaken in the first phases of product development.
This perspective resulted in the life cycle approach to design, which considers all the phases of the product’s life cycle (development, production, distribution, use, recovery and disposal) during the entire design process, from concept definition to detailed design development. It therefore uses methods and techniques to integrate product evolution, from conception to disposal, with a wide range of design requirements: performance, costs, environmental impact.




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