LEDs Outlast Others

LEDs Outlast Others

A group of organisations called Eucolight manage the collection and recycling of lighting throughout Europe. They deal with most of the lamps that enter the waste stream in that part of the world and their findings confirm that LEDs do really last for a long time, reporting that “LED lamps currently represent less than 2% of the waste stream, with their long life”.

Claims are holding up

Very few LEDs are failing prematurely if they are only 2% of the waste stream and make up more than 50% of lights sold. The figure is in line with the claims manufacturers are making that their luminaires have 30 to 50 thousand hours of useful life.

Possible downside

It’s anticipated that LEDs will comprise 30 – 40% of discarded lighting within the next 10 years as they take over as the dominant lamp type and people upgrade to ever more efficient luminaires. The downside to this is that the design flexibility that is one of LEDs’ strengths is potentially a weakness. As modern economies look to become circular and recycle as much as possible, the amount and variety of materials in LEDs can create problems. The CEO of UK lamp recycler Recolight, Nigel Harvey, says: “One of the benefits of LED technology is there’s been an explosion in the range of materials that are used, the designs that are used, the shapes, the sizes, everything.” But he goes on to point out that “You’ve got so many more materials in there. They are bonded together, often with glues and foams that make separation of them using mechanical processes very difficult. You’ve got all types of materials in there from plastics, glass, ceramics, aluminium, copper.”

LED future

Recyclers recover 90% of material in fluorescent tubes as opposed to only 50% from LEDs. But no-one is advocating a return to inefficient lights containing mercury simply because recyclers are currently geared up to extract the maximum from them. What is likely to happen is that recyclers will get better at breaking down LED fittings and LED manufacturers will be obliged to improve the recyclability of their products as economies mandate improved practices.

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