Electronic textiles and product lifetimes: teardowns

Wickenden, Rachael; Mclaren, Angharad; Hardy, Dorothy

FG Transdisziplinäre Nachhaltigkeitsforschung in der Elektronik

Electronic textiles (E-textiles), the combination of electronics with textiles, pose significant challenges for the extension of product lifetimes, reuse, recycling and end-of-life disposal. E-textiles products can be divided into two categories: the first is the ‘vision’ of ubiquitous computing, achieved using computation seamlessly integrated into garments, home furnishings and other textiles the second is the often-overlooked commercial reality of E-textiles that covers a variety of hybrid electronic-textile products such as electric blankets and novelty items such as light-up musical Christmas jumpers. The products in both categories contain a combination of hazardous and valuable substances dispersed throughout low value, difficult to recycle, heterogeneous material. The market for E-textiles is predicted to expand rapidly, but little has been done to ensure environmental factors are considered during product design and development. This paper reports on a series of E-textile product teardowns conducted to identify the strengths and weakness of commercially available E-textile products, using eco-design and clothing longevity guidelines (Cooper et al., 2016; Köhler, 2013b) as a framework for analysis.