Towards a Sustainable Lighting Industry

07/11/2016   /   Categories :  News

A lighting fixture is built from many components, and they can differ significantly in terms of durability. Even if a product has reached the end of it service life, it is possible to recover expensive materials and recondition some components to be used in a new fixture, without affecting performance. In fact, there are cases where failure is extremely localized, and most components of the lamp or fixture are still in perfect operating conditions.

Incandescent, fluorescent and HID fixtures are notorious for their environmental impact. These lighting products normally have plastic and glass parts, which are non-biodegradable. In many cases, they also contain hazardous compounds, such as mercury.

Environmental Benefits of LED Lighting

When talking about the environmental benefits of LED lighting, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is its reduced energy consumption, and by extension a lower carbon footprint, especially if the energy is generated at power plants running on fossil fuels. However, LED lighting also contributes to environmental protection by producing less waste, due to its long service life.

This can be illustrated by comparing metal halide bulbs and industrial LED fixtures. A metal halide bulb will typically last around 10,000 hours, while most industrial LED products last between 50,000 and 100,0000 hours. Less waste is generated simply because lamp replacements become five to ten times less frequent.

Lighting Industry Recycling Programs

Many of the components used in lighting fixtures are not only reusable, but also valuable, and there are lighting manufacturers who have recycling programs to reduce their environmental impact while recovering materials such as mercury, rare earths and electronic components.

An unfortunate consequence of the digital era is that e-waste production is growing at exponential rates, and the rise of technologies like the Internet of Things will continue driving this trend unless industry players take an active role to mitigate waste production. The lighting industry is merging with information technologies, and there is an excellent opportunity for manufacturers to make a difference in how e-waste is managed.

Leading brands such as Sylvania and Philips have set in motion active recycling programs. These include not only LED lighting, but also fluorescent and HID lamps, as well as their ballasts. Recycling programs will play a very important role as LED bulbs displace CFLs in the residential sector, which could have a significant environmental impact if disposed improperly, due to their mercury content.

LED products are particularly well-suited for recycling programs: when a fixture reaches the end of its service life, over 90 percent of components can typically be reused. Most lighting manufacturers in the European Union must comply with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation.

The Role of Information Technologies

Increased integration with the IT industry will make lighting smarter and more efficient, while also allowing it to serve as a platform to optimize the operation of other systems. Communication technologies could also help reduce the operating costs and environmental impact of lighting manufacturers:

  • For example, 3D printing can allow lighting products to be manufactured at the point of use. The model used by the 3D printed can be transmitted electronically, eliminating shipping expenses.
  • Lighting industry professionals can now communicate and collaborate across the world. There are now freelancing platforms like LightPro, where lighting manufacturers and project developers can get in touch with lighting professionals of all specializations.

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