Lamp recycling is still a communication challenge

Written by: Stewart Price | Published:
Unfortunately, this article contains a number of incorrect statements and factual errors, including ...

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Households may be disposing of lamps less regularly thanks to the shift to energy-efficient LEDs, but many are still dumping them in the normal bin rather than recycling them. Stewart Price, general manager of Lumicom, reports

It’s an exciting time within the lighting industry as we are experiencing huge changes in the types of new lighting and technology being placed on the market. With the movement towards energy-efficient LED lamps, many consumers and businesses are replacing their old incandescent lamps with new energy-efficient alternatives. In 2015 the industry sold in the region of 11,500 tonnes of lamps onto the UK market.

But do consumers understand the impact of recycling, along with the requirements of legislation?


Since 2007, legislation under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive has been in place to ensure that lamps are recycled under strict guidelines.

The recycling industry is ideally placed to deal with the materials generated, and in 2015, 5,644 tonnes of household lamps were recycled in the UK. This equates to over 180 million individual lamps.

However, in many cases lamps are still being disposed of via household waste bins, so they are not recycled correctly. All lamps are required to be returned to either designated collection facilities for traditional incandescent lamps or at retail store collection points.

More work needs to be done to ensure that consumers and businesses are aware of their obligation to recycle.

Waste trends

Despite the change towards LED lamps, we believe that there will still be many of the traditional gas discharge and incandescent lamps within the waste stream and we expect such lamps to be present within this waste stream for the next 10 years. However, one thing is certain; there will be a significant reduction in the tonnage of lamps collected.

The future

A key challenge with disposing of waste is the behaviour of the consumer.

Due to technological advances within the industry and extended life spans, lamps are disposed of less and less, making the promotion of correct disposal more challenging. With a continued disposal of lamps via traditional household waste bins, there is a risk that we could fall further away from our UK waste collection targets.

Fact file:

  • Weight of lamps recycled in the 2016 WEEE target for household collections: 544,00 tonnes
  • Volume of recycled lamps is expected to halve by 2030
  • Hazardous lamps currently represent approximately 70% of the waste stream, reducing to 30% by 2030
  • Lamp recycling has more than doubled in the UK since 2008
  • Weight of consumer lamps sold in the UK in 2015: 11,500 tonnes
  • Weight of tonnage of lamps recycled in the UK in 2015: 5,644 tonnes (equivalent to 180 million lamps)

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Unfortunately, this article contains a number of incorrect statements and factual errors, including the following: • It suggests that traditional incandescent lamps should be returned to Designated Collection Facilities (DCFs) or retail stores. This is not correct. The right place to put waste incandescent lamps is in the residual waste stream. Whilst incandescent lamps are sometimes incorrectly placed in lamp containers, they are not classified as WEEE. As such, they are regarded as contamination in waste lamp containers, although they are sometimes treated along with the other lamps. • It suggests that the tonnage of household lamps collected in the UK (5644 tonnes) is equivalent to 180 million lamps. This is far too high. Industry averages for the number of waste lamps/tonne vary around 7000, which would make the total number of lamps collected in 2015 approximately 40 million. • It implies that the 2016 target for WEEE lamps is 544,00 tonnes. This is wrong. The 2016 WEEE lamp collection target, announced by the Government in March, was 6,882 tonnes. 544,000 is actually the Government’s 2016 collection target for all streams of WEEE, including lamps. • It suggests that hazardous lamps represent 70% of the lamp waste stream. This is too low. Currently Recolight data shows that in excess of 95% of the lamp stream is hazardous. • It suggests that “lamp recycling has more than doubled since 2008”. The tonnage of lamps recycled has not doubled – it is the rate that has doubled. I hope these corrections will help to eliminate any confusion. Recolight has specialised in the WEEE lamp sector since 2007, and have recycled more waste lamps than all other UK WEEE Schemes put together, and so our knowledge of the sector is particularly good. Nigel Harvey Chief executive Recolight

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