ENTHUSIASM FOR SUSTAINABILITY CONTINUES TO GROW IN THE LIGHTING INDUSTRY. ENERGY EFFICIENT FIXTURES ARE NOW standard practice, so manufacturers are looking to other environmentally conscious initiatives as a way to stand out from the crowd. The issue is no longer just how many watts are saved when a product is powered up; specifiers are demanding that manufacturers minimize the amount of energy consumed over the entire life of a product.
The popularity of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is pushing these issues even further. Architects and lighting designers are increasingly concerned not just with the aesthetics and performance of fixtures, but also with manufacturers' business practices and attitudes toward environmental responsibility. And manufacturers are quickly learning that to be considered for a specification they need to put sustainability at the top of their priority list.
RECYCLING LAMPS/BALLASTS Increased emphasis on energy-efficient lighting has generated concern regarding disposal. While lamp manufacturers have worked over the past 20 years to reduce the amount of mercury in their products, the small amounts that are still contained in fluorescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) sources can pose health risks if not handled properly. The current lamp recycling system in the United States requires customers to contract directly with independent, third-party recycling companies. According to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), this system provides the most efficient and cost-effective approach because it promotes competition among third-party companies. NEMA maintains a website—www.lamprecycle.org—with a comprehensive list of recyclers and other information.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 1995 Universal Waste Rule (UWR) requires businesses handling and consuming fluorescent and HID lamps to recycle them at the end of life. To address this issue in the commercial lighting market, Osram Sylvania created Sylvania Lighting Services (SLS) to help building and facility managers ensure they are meeting all federal and state requirements for lamp disposal. SLS technicians make an average of 30,000 customer visits per month to perform lighting retrofits, group re-lamps, service calls, and inspections. After a facility is serviced or a project is completed, the technicians ship all spent lamps and ballasts (regardless of brand) to a third-party recycler for processing.
The Universal Waste Rule does not regulate the disposal of mercury-containing products by individual households, but the EPA does encourage residents to take on the responsibility for proper recycling or disposal. GE Consumer and Industrial's website directs customers to www.lamprecycle.org for an up-to-date list of companies that recycle lamps by state.
Other lamp manufacturers have gone one step farther to encourage consumers to keep their spent lamps out of landfills. Osram Sylvania has teamed up with Lombard, Illinois–based Veolia Environmental Services (VES) North America, the continent's largest lamp and ballast recycler, to provide environmentally responsible recycling alternatives for mercury-containing products. For residential customers, the RECYCLEPAK Consumer CFL Recycling Kit gives consumers the ability to purchase a pre-paid, pre-labeled recycling kit online, which can be shipped back to the manufacturer via the United States Postal Service and assure proper disposal of the lamps. Philips Lighting and Earth Protection Services Inc. have developed a similar program, the EPSI-PAK, available at www.earthpro.com/philips.
SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS PRACTICES But a sustainable consciousness is not just affecting products and goods, lighting manufacturers have also found a variety of ways to be more sustainable in their daily business practices. Adopting green manufacturing methods is not just good for the environment—it is good marketing. Below are some of the recent trends in sustainable manufacturing strategies employed by a handful of lighting manufacturers across the globe.
- Using Recycled and Recyclable Materials in Luminaire Production: This is now a commn practice for many lighting manufacturers. British Columbia–based Ledalite, a Philips Group brand, uses steel with at least 70 percent recycled content in their fixtures. German lighting company Bega and its California-based affiliate, Bega/US, use aluminum with 90 percent recycled content (with a few exceptions where virgin material is necessary for the product's intended use). And Milwaukee-based Visa Lighting recycles all scrap metal, plastic, and electronic components in their facility.
- Manufacturing Facilities: Ledalite incorporated wastewater-treatment technology into their manufacturing facility in Langley, British Columbia, to remove harmful pollutants and chemicals from rinse water; all of the plant's power comes from a clean hydroelectric source. And the air filtration system at Visa Lighting‘s plant in Glendale, Wisconsin, incorporates an extractor so that fumes do not exhaust outside.
- Finishing Processes: Using powder-coat paint eliminates the waste associated with liquid paints. Ledalite achieves 95 percent reclamation on overspray in their powder-coat paint facilities. Bega reclaims 50 percent of waste powder and mixes it with virgin powder for use on non-visible component parts.
- Recycled Paper: Ledalite prints its catalogs on paper made with process chlorine–free, 100 percent post consumer–waste fiber. It is also increasingly popular for lighting design and architectural firms to go paperless, refusing to accept printed literature into their offices and encouraging manufacturers to instead improve the quality of their websites.