The Recycling of LEDs need more focus in Australia

With the need for energy efficient-lighting solutions increasing, the recycling of old LEDs and mercury bearing lights needs more focus.  Zoltan Sekula, of e-waste recycler Ecocycle believes more needs to be done.  “Increased public awareness and educational campaigns are required.  We must help people understand the regulations surrounding the ban on lighting products containing mercury”.  Zoltan believes that whilst the total amount of lighting products being recycled has increased in recent years there is still a long way to go.

Mercury is present in fluorescent lamps, flat screen TVs and monitors, laptop screens and a range of other e-wastes.

The current Lighting Council Product Stewardship scheme is no longer fit for purpose.  It was developed a decade ago.  Sadly, as a voluntary scheme it has failed to arrest the increase in the number of mercury-containing lights that are finding their way to regular household or commercial waste.

A small levy on imports

“A more progressive scheme is required,  Producers need to pay a small levy on all imports so that we can adequately finance an effective national recycling service that is free to the public”. Zoltan says.  The National Television and Recycling Scheme is a stewardship program that is achieving a recycling rate of 68%.   It is hoped that a lighting product stewardship scheme could achieve similar levels.

Importantly, LED lights is a specialist recycling process.  Currently 59% of the lighting products recycled in Australia are fluorescent tubes. Additionally, the release of mercury vapours and water-soluble methyl mercury poses significant health risks.  Internationally there has been a ban in force on the sale of compact fluorescent lighting (CFL).  In Australia we are still seeing the run-down of CFL stocks that have found their way to Australia.

Zoltan believes a sustainable approach for LED lights and CFL recycling requires a greater degree of collaboration between the government, lighting suppliers and recyclers. “Once the government establishes the rules to promote efficient recycling, I am confident that the lighting industry and consumers will quickly participate, and with increased awareness we can limit the impact on our environment”.

Ecocycle continue to excel in providing specialist recycling services for Mercury bearing lighting equipment and legacy mercury containing products.  They are the only EPA licensed Mercury recycler in Australia with a national presence.  The recycling processes used are world class capturing the mercury and other resources like glass, phosphor, and metals from discharge lighting.


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