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Thoughts from the Ed

Author : Paul Wolfe

In a week where everyone seems to be talking about the Olympics, Fifty Shades of Grey and the unexpected warm weather, I’d like to take a moment to look around at what else is going on.

Would you trust this man to fix your car?

Earlier this month, I found myself walking down the hard shoulder of the M25, somewhere in Surrey. It wasn’t because my trusty steed had broken down; I was helping a beleaguered driver who had been forced to stop because her car was sending steam signals of distress across the motorway. I helped as much as I could and then we both went our separate ways.

You may remember that several years ago, a car scrappage scheme was introduced in a bid to revive flagging car sales. The outward signs are that it was a success, but under the initiative, owners of cars that are at least ten years old could trade in their vehicle for a discount off a brand new car; typically in the area of £2000. Of course, the issue there was that we were scrapping perfectly good vehicles just because they were old. In my eyes, it was the next chapter in a long story of a contemporary society with a throwaway attitude. A generation has been instilled with the notion that when something doesn’t work or it’s old, it’s thrown away. Perhaps it’s the mindset now that we tolerate disposing of items that no longer work rather than ‘make do and mend’. Luckily I was able to mend that stricken Fiat on the M25 and hopefully save it from the scrapyard for a little bit longer.

But recycling instead of scrapping, now there’s a different story altogether.

The UK legislation on WEEE came into force just over five years ago, on 1 July 2007. It requires the removal of end of life lighting equipment and delivery to plants where recycling will be performed. There are a wide variety of luminaries with various components that can be found in installations and some of these components may contain restricted substances that need to be segregated for recycling. This will be necessary to avoid contamination of recyclable luminaire waste. The three most important components that need to be handled separately are lamps, batteries in self-contained emergency luminaires and power factor correction capacitors.

A story we ran last week (Bertie Bulb stars in online video to encourage households to recycle low-energy light bulbs) explained how research has shown that recycling rates for low-energy light bulbs would be higher if it was easier for consumers to do so. So in the last two years, Recolight has worked in partnership with Homebase, Robert Dyas, Sainsbury’s and several local authorities to provide 800 more locations where householders can take their low-energy light bulbs for recycling.

This is a topic that’s growing in importance and I think it will continue to do so for some time to come.

In the June issue of EP there was a news story about Lumicom, which explained that of the B2B luminaires recycled in 2011, over 97% were handled by Lumicom recyclers. Luminaires are one of the few construction products that fall within the scope of the WEEE Regulations and they also have the most complex route to market with so many players involved in the specification, application, supply, installation, eventual ownership and use. As WEEE covers luminaires, it’s interesting to read a recent story on EP’s website (PAS 141 set to boost re-use of used and waste electrical equipment) that explains how industry is gearing-up for the official launch of Publicly Available Specification or PAS 141:2011. This new British best practice standard is set to increase cut down on illegal exports of used and waste electrical and electronic equipment (UEEE & WEEE).

UEEE and WEEE treatment facilities looking to achieve PAS 141 status will be independently assessed by UKAS accredited certification bodies to ensure they meet the standard. Accreditation of the first UK certification body will take place this summer and more are likely to follow.

We’ve all been recycling our household waste for some time now, separating plastics and foil from cans and glass, so it’s a logical next step to get luminaires recycled and prevent them going into landfill.

Now, back to Fifty Shades of Summer…

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