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"Repro-light" - the European lighting industry on the way to a circular economy

Every year in Europe, about 15 million tons of electronic waste accumulate, with a strong upward trend. In the past, the lamps and electronic parts of luminaires were simply replaced at the end of their service life (lamps, sockets, control gear, etc. were standardized). This is generally no longer possible with modern LED luminaires. They are electronic waste that ends up in the landfill.

The European research project "Repro-light" (www.repro-light.eu) led by Bartenbach, which was completed at the end of September, had the aim of supporting the European lighting industry on its way to a more sustainable and competitive future. In the project, innovative technologies and materials were used to develop intelligent modular luminaires with matching smart production processes. The main components of these luminaires are interchangeable and can be configured for the respective application (e.g. different LED modules and optics), their software can be updated accordingly.

In order to minimize the ecological footprint of LED lights from the extraction of raw materials to the production, the use and finally the disposal, a comprehensive life cycle assessment study was conducted in the project.

In the sense of a circular economy, increased maintenance, reuse and reprocessing must be taken into account right from the product design stage, while avoiding waste and environmental pollution. An essential aspect is also the use of critical raw materials that are subject to supply shortage (e.g. some raw materials for the production of LEDs coming from e.g. China).

In summary, it can be said that for the raw material balance (abiotic resource depletion), the metals used for electronics and LED-boards and their recycling rates are mainly decisive (rare earths, as well as gold, silver, copper, nickel, lead and aluminum and their by-metals). A resource shortage is threatening in the case of gold and silver and the rare earths. In addition, one is dependent on the producer China for the use of rare earths.

As far as the toxicity of the materials used is concerned, the mining of rare earths (toxic sludges) and uncontrolled contamination with copper, iron, lead, nickel and silver are crucial.

For all other environmental burdens such as CO2 pollution (global warming), primary energy consumption, soil acidification and eutrophication, the operation of the luminaires itself (energy consumption) is responsible for about 98%.

Bartenbach will continue to work on this topic and will take the findings from Repro-light into account in its product developments and planning projects. As an international hub for lighting innovations, Bartenbach can thus make a significant contribution to the Green Deal of the European Union.

 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 768780.