Recycling of LED lamps and the challenges faced

LED lighting is being used more and more, not just in the UK, but all over the world. In the UK there has been a major switch from more traditional lighting types like fluorescent, to the more energy efficient LED lighting. However, it seems that the UK is facing a challenge in the recycling of these popular LED lamps.

The relatively new introduction of LED lighting to the UK market, and the ease of production using multiple different materials ranging from glass, plastics, metals, glass, makes LED a dream to work with for manufactures and customers but a nightmare for recycling.

LED lamps have not yet properly reached the waste stream in large quantities. Out of the massive 6000 tonnes of waste lamps collected and recycled in the UK in 2016, only 1% were LED, the other 99% were traditional lamps.

Research shows that most consumers cannot confidently or reliably differentiate between LED and traditional lighting. The use of glass or plastic on the outer parts of many different lamps, further complicates matters. If there was something in place requiring consumers to put LED lamps and traditional lamps into different containers, there would inevitably be significant cross-contamination.

Given that there is still much work to do on developing recycling solutions for LED lamps, the low percentage in the waste stream is not too much of a worry at this point, as this low percentage would be expected to be increased greatly once an appropriate solution is in place.

There are currently several projects being run to seek solutions for this challenge. Recolight and EucoLight, the European Association for lighting WEEE compliance, are bringing together Europe’s leading WEEE schemes specialising in the lighting industry, with a view to tackling this.