Building rehabilitation will be increasing in importance in the coming years. New regulations will demand a higher level of sustainability from both existing buildings and new builds, and switching out older luminaires with energy-efficient LED luminaires is an easy and effective way to make a building more sustainable. This naturally leads to a lot of older luminaires becoming obsolete and needing to be recycled. All our locations across Europe, Asia and the US collaborate with companies that help us handle and recycle e-waste, and in Norway, those companies are RENAS AS and Stena Recycling. We had a chat with both companies about sustainability in the lighting industry.
RENAS AS – the WEEE compliance facilitators
RENAS is Norway’s leading WEEE (the EU Directive on waste electronic and electrical equipment) compliance scheme. They finance the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE. It is a non-profit organisation owned by trade organisations representing its member companies, Glamox included.A lot of Norwegian lightning suppliers are members of RENAS, which makes RENAS responsible for collecting and treating the majority of the country’s broken and obsolete luminaires. They do this by cooperating like Stena Recycling.
Stena Recycling AS – the recycling experts
Knut Sælid is the operations manager at Stena Recycling. He explains that they do the hands-on job of collecting surplus materials and e-waste from businesses and production, refining them, and turning them back into new raw materials or energy. They make recycling as sustainable and energy-efficient as possible and deliver raw materials to industries all over the world, while always adhering to the very strict laws and regulations concerning electrical waste.
During a visit to their facilities in Romerike, Norway we witnessed large containers filled with luminaires, mostly from Glamox, and we got to see how they are treated before recycling. The wires are cut off and the luminaire is checked for PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), a group of toxic chemicals often found in older electrical products. The luminaire is then broken down into smaller pieces in order to separate the different metals used – often iron or steel, copper and aluminium – as well as the plastics.
“Much of the volume of e-waste comes from demolition or construction companies and other businesses. When these are members of RENAS AS, they can deliver their electrical waste to us for free, or even have us pick it up for them. We then weigh it and remove any toxic parts – we don’t often find those in Glamox products – grind the products down, separate the materials and recycle them into new, pure products through melting. It is a sad fact that 91% of the materials used on this planet are only used once and only 8,6 % are recycled. This is massively unsustainable. Glamox should be very proud to be part of that 8,6 %”, Knut Sælid implores.
“For example, by recycling one kilo of aluminium instead of sourcing brand new raw materials, you use 95% less energy. We can’t continue using our resources like we do today; we will simply run out.“
The industry has improved, but is far from perfect
When you look at the product group that includes luminaires, about 80% of the parts can be recycled depending on how much metal is used. Sadly, the plastics used in older luminaires are often not of a quality adequate for recycling.
Anja Ronesen from RENAS has this to say about the state of sustainability in the lighting industry today:
“The lighting industry did something very important when they phased out PCB, as it is important to avoid environmental toxins in products. One current problem is brominated flame retardants in plastic since these cannot be recycled. Producers are trying to find non-toxic replacements, and recyclers are trying to find ways to recycle these plastics. So far this has proven to be very expensive and difficult,” she says.
She adds that The task becomes a lot more manual and time-consuming, which could discourage them from being recycled altogether. This also applies to products where the product is welded or glued shut, or where the electronics are sealed in epoxy.
Sustainability at Glamox
Once the recycled metals get melted they are mixed in with metals from all kinds of old products: production waste, electrical products, old cars, and so on. They are then turned into standard products like recycled steel beams, or custom aluminium alloys, depending on what the clients need. These are then used to make brand-new products – for example by Glamox.
We are always looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our products, from the production to the packaging to the distribution, energy use, and longevity. We have also committed to setting near-term company-wide emission reductions in line with climate science with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
If you are in the EU you might notice that all fluorescent lighting will be banned by September 2023. The decision to phase out these mercury-containing lamps will save 190 TWh of electricity and 1.8 metric tonnes of toxic mercury between 2023 and 2035. It will also mean that a whole lot more luminaires will – hopefully – be recycled by companies like Stena Recycling in the coming .