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Call for luminaire producers to join WEEE compliance schemes

Light fitting manufacturers should join WEEE compliance schemes to increase the UK’s luminaire recycling rate, according to the UK’s leading lighting compliance scheme.

Recolight chief executive Nigel Harvey said luminaires have scrap value arising from aluminium, copper and steel.

But he added: “There is no guarantee that all scrap luminaires are treated to the same standards that apply if they are collected through the official WEEE system.

“For example, there are mandatory recovery rates applicable to luminaires collected through the WEEE system, that do not apply to scrap.”

Harvey said luminaires’ scrap value helps diversion from landfill. However, plastics are far less likely to be recycled when returned as scrap and contamination in metal can be burnt off, if exported to third world countries.

The UK’s business luminaire WEEE recycling rate is just 0.6%.

The new WEEE regulations give producers of business luminaires two options:

  1. The producer takes responsibility for their waste products
  2. The producer passes this responsibility to their business end users, if they have a direct business relationship

Harvey said: “If luminaire producers join WEEE schemes that are committed to increasing recycling and will take that responsibility, rather than leaving it to end users, this increases recycling through official WEEE channels. That will result in higher standards of recycling.”

Harvey also said theft of waste luminaires is commonly reported and recycling standards are unlikely to be applied in these cases.

Luminaire Recycling data

Environment Agency figures show 55,433 tonnes of luminaires were supplied to business end users in 2012. 

However, only 328 tonnes were collected as business waste by all UK WEEE compliance schemes. 

This is an official UK business luminaire WEEE recycling rate of just 0.6%.

 

Mercury risk in luminaire scrap

Nigel Harvey said: “Although professional operators always remove lamps from waste fittings, there is a risk that some will not be so careful.

“It is much easier to dispose of luminaires by leaving lamps inside, rather than laboriously removing the lamps, and arranging for proper treatment. 

“And if the scrap dealer is willing to turn a blind eye, that would result in illegal release of mercury.”

 

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