Replacing replacement – a waste avoidance strategy
At the risk of beginning this article with a major understatement , these are difficult days indeed to be working in building services and administration. Growing pressure to address the subject of energy efficiency and make appropriate changes to a facility’s technical infrastructure is one significant consideration, and something that many commercial and public sector organisations are now getting to grips with. Regrettably, though, it’s a trend that is having one very unfortunate side-effect – a rising tide of waste generated by the replacement of outdated equipment.
With lighting accounting for 19% of all commercial electricity usage in Europe, it is hardly surprising that the switch to less power-intensive fittings and fixtures has turned out to be one of the real hot topics of the efficiency debate. But while the potential for financial savings and drastic reductions in electricity consumption has already become apparent, so too have the implications for Europe’s over-subscribed landfill sites.
A growing problem
The problem is particularly acute in the UK, where industrial, commercial and household waste is growing collectively by 3% per annum. Indeed, bad waste practices are so endemic that Envirowise – a government-funded group that advises businesses on sustainability – recently cited an annual cost to UK industry of at least £15bn. And if these rather troubling statistics aren’t enough to prompt a reexamination of the ways in which commercial enterprises are seeking to meet their efficiency targets, then ongoing increases in landfill taxes certainly should be.
In this context, the mountain of old luminaires and light fittings that can result from a major lighting upgrade will provide a challenge for any organisation. It’s an issue that Energys Services Ltd, lighting solution installation specialists, has had to address on behalf of its clients. Bob Henderson, Operations Director at Energys Services, explains: “Waste is a huge issue in the UK, and landfill space is at a premium. The Government’s aim for older, less efficient lighting systems to be phased out will mean a huge amount of waste being generated long term – meaning extra cost and an environmental dilemma for UK businesses.” However Energys Services believes it has addressed this problem by offering its clients Save It Easy, a retrofit e-ballast solution from Energy Conservation Solutions Limited (ECSL) that has rapidly established a strong market profile since its launch last autumn.
Seven years in development, the Save It Easy units enable users of fluorescent lighting to relamp with high-efficiency T5 and T8 triphosphor tubes in existing fittings. The upshot is that significant energy savings – anything from 34% to 56% depending on the application – can be accrued without the need to replace less efficient existing luminaires. Not only does this hold the promise of a massive reduction in the investment required by a lighting upgrade, it also means that tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of luminaires at any given site can continue to give good service for years to come.
“The fact that Save It Easy upgrades existing lighting systems rather than replacing them obviously means that the ceiling battens remain in place and are not disposed of,” says Mr Henderson. “When installing this product our people have a real feeling of pride and satisfaction that they are not only enhancing the client’s carbon footprint through energy saving, but are also eliminating what would otherwise be a major waste disposal problem. Many of our clients are enhancing hundreds or even thousands of luminaires, which would otherwise represent tens of tons of metal, plastic and glass needing recycling or dumping.”
Moreover, the reduction in waste enabled by Save It Easy is not restricted to the short-term. The installation of contemporary tubes with longer, more efficient lives has some very positive implications for tube disposal and relamping frequency – no minor consideration given the exacting requirements of current Waste Electrical Equipment (WEE) legislation.
“It is not just non-disposal of the ceiling battens which contributes to the waste avoidance retrofit offers,” observes Henderson. “Benefits also apply to the fluorescent tubes, which require specialist disposal and are subject to WEE legislation. The triphosphor tubes installed with Save It Easy have an efficient life of over 20,000 hours, in comparison with an acceptable life of only 9,000-10,000 hours for the conventional halophosphate tubes they replace. Tube disposal and re-lamping frequency is literally halved and the new triphosphor items, when eventually replaced, also have a lower mercury content to be dealt with.”
ECSL cite plenty of other benefits for the Save It Easy units, including a two year no quibble guarantee when used with GE lamps and qualification for the Carbon Trust interestfree loan scheme for SME (small medium enterprise) clients. Meanwhile, the straightforward plug-in installation can be carried out by non-specialist staff, minimising labour costs and downtime required for the installation process. Such has been the rate of adoption of these solutions that, at time of writing in late May, more than 300,000 units have been installed in private and public sector buildings across the UK since the official launch last September.
A recent project at Companies House in Cardiff illustrates some of the benefits that Save It Easy can bring. The two-stage elimination of 600 T8 lamps in a multi-storey car park that is lit for 12 hours per day, six days per week, ultimately resulted in a reduction in energy costs of nearly £7,000 and a 40- plus tonne fall in CO2 emissions. The payback period for the project is estimated to be a mere 0.74 years.
The need to adopt energy efficient technologies and tackle resulting waste issues is only going to intensify in the coming years. There are now an abundance of technologies in the energy efficiency market and as a result building managers are becoming much shrewder in their choice of solution. Any new products brought to market will have to be sensitive to both current and probable future circumstances if they are to stand any chance of longevity – and the problem of waste is an issue that is here to stay.