Page 48 - Material Flows of the Home Appliance Industry
P. 48

 When looking at the evolution of materials consumption in two of the most representative products of the home appliance industry (refrigerators and washing machines), the following trends can be seen:
For refrigerators, the dominant material remains steel, with an increase in stainless steel. This is even more relevant in non- household refrigeration. Compared to the early 2000s, electronic components have increased from 0,5% to 1,5%, and up to 2% for some products.
The share of polyurethane foam (PUR) increased over time (from 10 to 12%), as a consequence of the work to improve the energy efficiency of appliances, as well as glass (from 6% to 14%) mainly because steel-wire shelves (common 10 years ago), have been replaced by glass shelves.
The situation is similar for plastics, which was around 14% in 2000 and increased to nearly 23% today with peeks of 29% in certain cases.
It should also be noted that, over time, products have become larger (about 10%) in net volume and also heavier (up to 15%). Weight increase is linked to the total volume of the appliance, but even more to the larger wall thickness, especially of fridge-freezers and upright freezers (to reduce energy consumption).
Steel chassis and surfaces of the cabinets have increased by around 15%. The polysterene (PS) inner-liner  has increased by around 10%. Increase of product weight is also linked with improvement of refrigeration efficiency: condenser and evaporator surfaces became bigger - thus heavier - and more tube-and-fin evaporators are used.
For washing machines, similar trends can be observed: steel is the dominant material: 67% in older products, with one case having nearly 82% when used also for the counterweight. Today the amount of steel has decreased to 41%, while concrete still represents a relevant share, accounting for more than 25% of the total weight.
As for refrigerators, the use of electronic components increased from 0,2% up to 2,4-2,7% in modern models. The plastic share increased from 6,8% up to 23,4% with some products up to 26,7%. One of the main reasons for replacement of metals (steel in particular) with plastics is connected with the increase of flexibility in production, and reduction of the final product price.
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