2020, 6,513 tons of waste lamps could be properly recycled. Actually a recycling rate of 90% was achieved. As a member of the WEEE compliance scheme Lightcycle, JW Sales GmbH are committed to support environmental protection. We preserve the natural resources and protect the environment from hazardous contaminants. Important materials such as glass, metal and plastic enter the circular economy as secondary raw materials. By recycling old lamps, up to 99.9 percent pure mercury from the fluorescent phosphores is recycled or disposed of properly. Applying circular economy principles to use more sustainable materials as well as recycling are in vogue: Nowadays 78 percent of the German population are aware of where they can take waste lamps and luminaires for disposal free of charge: for example at the recycling center or at electrical retailers. That was the result of a representative survey in December 2020 by KANTAR Emnid on behalf of Lightcycle. With a view to the future, it can be expected that the people’s awareness of reuse and recycling will continue to grow.
Lots of usable parts
Waste lamps must not be disposed of together with household waste! Free lamp collection points are offered to consumers in thousands of DIY-stores, drugstores and supermarkets as well as at electrical retailers. According to the ElektroG (WEEE guidelines) lamp dealers, placing lamps on the market, are responsible for financing and ensuring the disposal of end-of-life products in an environmentally sound way.
How does waste lamp recycling work?
Four different recycling processes have been implemented to classify the waste lamps in compliance with their individual components. In all processes, a below atmospheric pressure and exhaust air cleaning systems ensure that no hazardous substances can get into the environment.
The cut-off process
This process is mainly used for the recycling of tubular fluorescent lamps, such as UV lamps for tanning. First of all, both lamp ends are cut off and all components containing metal and lead glass are separated. The mercury-containing phosphor is then blown or vacuumed out of the remaining glass tube to recover it. The cleaned glass is then crushed and cleared of metal residues with the help of a metal separator. Once processed and cleaned, the glass can be used to manufacture new lamps.
The broken glass washing process
This method allows to reprocess large quantities of different lamp types (e.g. fluorescent tubes) as well as broken lamps and production rejects. Once the lamps have been shredded, the larger metal fractions (i.e the end caps of fluorescent tubes) are disintegrated from the other materials by help of a magnetic drum. In a so-called vibro basin, the mercury and phosphor are then recovered from the broken glass and can be separated using sedimentation and rotary kiln distillation processes. The result is up to 99.9 percent pure mercury, which can be recycled, for example in the lamp or chemical industry, or disposed of properly. The remaining broken glass component mix can then be divided into its various fractions: soda-lime glass, lead glass and metals.
The shredding process
This process also allows the recycling of all lamp types, broken lamps and production rejects. These are recycled in three steps using the shredding process. First of all, the waste lamps are shredded. Then the fragments are sorted by size. The first step is a rather coarse fragmentation to recover the lamp ends or lamp bases. In the middle fraction the glass and plastic mix featuring a grain size of about 5mm are segregated. Fluorescent powder and comminuted glass can be found in the fine fraction. Here, too, the metal parts can be reused in the circular economy. The shards of mixed glass can be used for glass products with low purity requirements or as an aggregate, for example for glazing or foaming. The mercury is recovered from the phosphors using a distillation process.
The centrifugal separation process
This process can be used to recycle all non-tube lamps. It is not suitable for tube lamps. In the product-specific steps, only compact fluorescent lamps and energy-saving lamps are processed. Firstly, the lamps are segregated into two fractions: a glass and metal mix or plastic. During this disintegration, the illuminant is extracted and separated using filter systems. The remaining mercury is recovered by heating the glass and the base. The glass parts are then subjected to a thermal treatment in order to return them to the production cycle. The metal and plastic parts of the lamp sockets, on the other hand, are comminuted in a shredder. Metal separators will be used to sort out metals that can be magnetised. After the metals have been sorted out, they can be reused in lamp production or other industrial branches.