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The word on the street about WEEE

While the recycling of luminaires for interior lighting has become relatively well established, the arrangements for disposing of street lanterns and emergency lighting batteries have been introduced more recently. Ernest Magog of Lumicom explains how it works

Since the implementation of the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive, the concept of separating waste and consigning end of life electrical products to a different waste stream has become well-established. As a result, the volume of interior luminaires being recycled has increased year on year, with the better recyclers achieving at least 70% recovery by average weight and 50% re-use and recycling of components, materials and other substances.

Recycling of lamps and luminaires has been established for some time but more recently new arrangements have been introduced for the recycling of street lanterns and the batteries used in emergency lighting. These, therefore, may be less familiar to EPA readers.

During the time that general luminaire recycling was being established it became clear that a clearly defined and easy to access infrastructure was essential for success. For that reason, prior to rolling out a scheme for the disposal of street lanterns, extensive field trials were carried out by not-for-profit compliance scheme Lumicom to establish the most efficient methodology. These trials explored a number of options for establishing an efficient, cost-effective and user-friendly disposal infrastructure for street lanterns. As such, this preparatory work has helped to establish the necessary flexibility to address all requirements, while maximising the level of recycling.

The new arrangements are also tailored to meet the needs of different types of projects. Hessian bags will be supplied to street lighting depots and these will then be collected on a ‘milk round’ basis.

There will be differing arrangements for Wales and Northern Ireland. In Wales a single recycler will supply and collect stillages on a milk round basis and in Northern Ireland the disposal of lanterns and other luminaires will be handled by another company. Details can be found at

Pre-launch investigations also highlighted the importance of training, based on the experience of other European countries. Consequently, Lumicom has made arrangements for training of depot staff by the Association of Signals, Lighting and other highway Electrical Contractors (ASLEC).

In terms of helping end users to comply with their requirements, electrical specifiers and installers will not have any financial obligations but they can ease the whole process by ensuring that any new lanterns are specified from members of Lumicom, which will take care of the end-of-life lanterns. This will greatly reduce administration and ensure that end users are not subject to unnecessary costs.

Dealing with batteries

Similar attention to detail has been paid to the disposal of batteries used in emergency lighting products, which have been covered under the Battery Regulations since January 2010. Again, under Lumicom guidance producers have set up take back systems to ensure that batteries, which are their responsibility are properly recycled.

It is also hoped that, by developing sensible take back arrangements, the industry will ensure that industrial nickel cadmium (NiCd) are not included in a plan to ban these batteries for general use. As David Wright, Chairman of the Industry Committee on Emergency Lighting (ICEL) warns: "Whilst in theory there are alternatives to NiCd rechargeable batteries, they are not as reliable or suitable for life safety equipment such as emergency lighting and, ultimately, they too will require a recycling infrastructure".

In the case of any recycling electrical products, the key consideration is that the compliance scheme used has a well organised infrastructure that is easy to use. In parallel, it is helpful if the scheme incorporates a high proportion of the key manufacturers and suppliers, so that all recycling requirements can be met from a single source.

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