WEEE recycling made easy

Ernest Magog of Lumicom explains the key things to look out for when refurbishing an existing lighting scheme in a commercial building and the elements which need to be considered in order to comply with the WEEE regulations.

Sustainability continues to be an issue for commercial buildings but the continuous cuts to budgets means that more companies are opting for refurbishment rather than new-build.

This may prove to be a more cost effective option but there are still a number of elements which need to be considered when refurbishing an existing lighting scheme because in order to comply with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations, any existing lamps and luminaires which are removed from the building must be recycled.

The WEEE regulations, which came into force in July 2007, require the removal of end of life lighting equipment and delivery to a suitable plant where it can be recycled. This in itself sounds like quite an onerous task, particularly if you take into account the fact that there are a wide variety of luminaires installed in every commercial building. You also need to consider the fact that each luminaire contains a number of components – some of which may contain restricted substances that need to be segregated out for separate collection to avoid contamination of recyclable luminaire waste. So what do you need to know?

Before you throw in the towel in frustration you will be pleased to hear that help is at hand because the WEEE Regulations 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 for their electrical products, having to pay for the treatment and recycling of all affected products.

When the WEEE Directive was first introduced a number of compliance schemes were set up to meet the responsibilities of the producers of electrical goods and these schemes now represent many manufacturers in the lighting industry.

The first step is therefore to identify which products you are removing. If all of the products are from manufacturers who belong to the same compliance scheme then you are in luck because there is a single point of contact. It is also generally quite easy to identify which compliance scheme the manufacturer belongs to – the Lumicom website for example provides a straightforward way of showing if the discarded luminaires are the responsibility of a Lumicom member.

One thing to note for the future is that many companies who are now carrying out refurbishment projects are specifying products from manufacturers who belong to one compliance scheme in order to make life easier when the next refurbishment takes place.

Keep it separate

So once you have sorted out how to get rid of the waste and taken out all of the old fittings, the next step is to make sure that you separate the different components – and again there are some very simple steps to follow.

Firstly you need to remove the lamps and store them safely for collection, you then need to identify whether each luminaire is a self-contained emergency lighting luminaire by locating the charge indicator of the batteries. If it is an emergency luminaire then you need to remove the batteries and store them separately for collection.

While this may sound quite complicated it is actually a very simple process and will ensure that the lamps, battery and/or capacitor do not contaminate the luminaire material during shredding.

The fact remains that we do not have a choice as far as the WEEE Directive is concerned – we have to comply with the regulations. But it can be easy and if you are unsure about what action to take then speak to a reputable compliance scheme as they will be more than happy to provide you with advice.

Refurbishment of commercial buildings is a huge market and therefore it pays to know what you are doing as far as end of life luminaires are concerned. In general terms it is neither economically or environmentally sensible to reuse old equipment when carrying out a refurbishment because modern replacements will produce a better light output and use half as much electricity.

But that doesn’t mean that the old equipment should go to waste because as a result of the WEEE Regulations, the vast majority of discarded lighting equipment is shredded into small pieces of metal and plastic and sold on the world market as raw material.

What this means for you is that the new installation will be far more energy efficient and fit for purpose and the old discarded products will be recycled to ensure a better use of finite materials and resources.

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