Are you as green as you think?

Most companies now have strict environmental policies in place which deal with the day to day procedures but quite often this doesn’t include the recycling of end of life lighting equipment. Simon Cook of Lumicom explains why you need to take this into account when carrying out a refurbishment.

Recycling is an issue which is close to many people’s hearts and they will proudly wheel their full recycling bin to the kerb-side ready for collection on bin day. Unfortunately this practice doesn’t always follow an individual into the workplace and while they may be fully engaged with the issue of recycling at home, they are quite happy to throw everything into a skip when they are at work. This is bad enough for paper and other recyclables but when it comes to end of life luminaires then we have a real problem.

Despite the fact that the WEEE regulations came into force in July 2007, and the fact that they have been widely publicised ever since, there still appears to be a degree of confusion over what to do with end of life luminaires when they are removed from a building. But in actual fact there should be no cause for confusion at all because regardless of the type of luminaire, they all need to be removed and delivered to a suitable plant where they can be recycled.

One of the main areas of concern is during the refurbishment of a commercial building because although the building owner may believe that the WEEE Regulations are being strictly adhered to when the old luminaires are removed there is no guarantee that this is the case. So the question you need to be asking yourself is do you have any control over the contractors who are carrying out the refurbishment and are they disposing of the luminaires in accordance with the WEEE Directive?

Duty of care

The WEEE Regulations are fairly straightforward in that they make business users, manufacturers and retailers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) responsible for making sure that their goods do not end up in landfill or incineration. Manufacturers therefore have cradle-to-grave responsibility, and it is up to them to provide provision for the treatment and recycling of all affected products.

What it is important to remember is that there are no exceptions – the WEEE Directive applies to everyone and therefore every luminaire which is replaced needs to be removed and delivered to plants where recycling can be performed.

While it is true that manufacturers do have the responsibility to ensure that their products do not end up in landfill, you also have a certain amount of responsibility to ensure that when a refurbishment project is taking place the correct procedures are put in place – and this means checking that your contractors are aware of their obligations.

Correct procedures

Managing the refurbishment of a building is hard enough because ensuring that all of the right people are in the right place at the right time while sticking to budgets and timescales can be an enormous task. Nobody really wants to add to this but unfortunately as far as the WEEE Directive is concerned you cannot ignore it.

Most contractors are aware of their obligations as far as end of life luminaires are concerned but all too often the temptation of an empty skip is too much and the luminaires are simply discarded and sent to landfill as the easy option. But if you have strict environmental policies in place which deal with the day to day procedures then why are end of life luminaires any different.

Some people will have you believe that complying with the WEEE Directive is a difficult and time consuming task – but this simply isn’t the case. In fact a number of compliance schemes, like the one which is run by Lumicom, exist primarily to make complying with the WEEE Directive easy and all you really need to know is which compliance scheme the manufacturer of the discarded luminaires belongs to.

One issue which may arise on large projects is if the luminaires belong to different manufacturers who in turn are members of different compliance schemes. If this is the case then each scheme may have to be dealt with separately but many specifiers are now thinking ahead and sourcing their luminaires from manufacturers that belong to the same scheme to simplify compliance in the future.

But regardless of whether you have to deal with one scheme or several, the key message remains the same and that is to check with your contractors before any luminaires are removed from the building. It isn’t acceptable to say that it isn’t your responsibility because if you are managing the refurbishment then it is very much your responsibility and if you are in any doubt then ask the question – a reputable compliance scheme will be only too happy to provide you with advice.

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