Waste stream definition

There are eight main types of lamps for the most common uses. Six of them are subject to separate collection. The concerned lamps categories are:
– Fluorescent tubes
– Low energy lamp bulbs (or compact fluorescent lamp)
– Metal halide lamps (or metal halide)
– Sodium vapor lamps (high and low pressure)
– Mercury vapor lamps
– LED lamps

Halogen lamps and incandescent lamps are not subject to selective collection at end of life. The most energy consuming products are also gradually withdrawn from the market since June 30, 2009, following the schedule of Regulation 244-2009.
Tubes and low energy lamp bulbs represent 90% of the tonnage of lamps collected by Recylum.

Despite their technological and compositional differences, LED lamps are now collected and processed in a mixture with other lamps. Today, they represent only 1% of the tonnage of lamps collected, but the breakthrough of this technology is now indisputable in terms of number of put in the market. In the coming years, LED lamps will be collected in big quantities and the treatment processes will have to adatp to this technological change.

4,894 T of Lampes were collected in 2016.

Waste stream composition

Ferrous and non-ferrous metals5.8%
Fluorescent powder*0.4%
Others (bakelite, glue etc.)3.2%

Table 1: Materials composition of the waste stream (*Containing Rare Earth Oxides)

Waste stream depollution and recycling

Depollution / pretreatment

The depollution of the lamps is exclusively related to regulatory requirements concerning mercury. This substance must be removed from lamps to achieve suitable treatment. Removing mercury is carried out during lamps recycling steps.

Lamps treatment centers have the obligation to comply with the CENELEC EN-50625 treatment standards which set limit values for depollution control to be taken into account when considering that a fraction is cleared. TS 50625-3-2 requires that the mercury content in the material resulting from the treatment of lamps has to be less than:

  • Glass: 10 mg/kg ;
  • Metals and plastics: 100 mg/kg.

Treatment / Recycling

Lamp recycling is carried out by treatment facilities with two main recycling techniques for mercury containing lamps, crushing and cutting:

  • The technique of cutting and separation is mainly used to recycle tubes. Tubes are first heated and then tube ends (essentially made of metal) are separated from the glass part of the tube. These are then blown to extract fluorescent powders and mercury. The glass tubes parts are cleaned and crushed, then remaining metal fractions are removed by a metal separator.

Figure 1: Treatment of tubes by cutting

  • The crushing technique is used for all types of lamps as well as for broken lamps and remaining fractions from cutting and separation plant. Products are crushed and the various fractions are separated by sieving or washing.

Figure 2: Treatment of lamps by crushing

It should be noted that actually fluorescent powders fractions (containing in particular rare earth elements) are recovered, demercurised and sent to HWSF (Hazardous Waste Storage Facility).

Moreover, the European Commission has published on October 22nd, 2008 a new regulation for mercury (EC n°1102-2008), banning export from the community from 2011 and requiring the safe storage of metallic mercury considered as waste instead of recycling.

Glass fractionsMaterials recovery / recyclingManufacturers of new tubes or glass manufacturer.
Metals fractionsMaterials recovery / recyclingMetal foundries - Manufacturing of various new products.
Plastics fractionsEnergy recovery / incinerationEnergy recovery (energy production) by incineration.
Fluorescent powdersMaterials recovery / recyclingDemercurised and then Hazardous Waste Storage Facility
MercuryLandfillNeutralized and buried in approved controlled landfill.

Table 2: treatment of the different fractions.

Proposed improvement plan

The table below provides some ideas to improve the recycling of WEEE. These ideas are from studies on the recycling of some products and difficulties encountered by treatment operators responsible for the treatment of WEEE. These areas for improvement can initiate a deeper reflection from producers. However, each product has its specificities and a number of other constraints to fulfill.

Encountered difficultiesImpact for recyclingEco design opportunities
For depollution and pre-treatment
Some lights are broken during collection or handling.Risk of exposure to mercury for operator.
Yield loss associated with longer treatment for broken.
Facilitate storage and handling of lamps.
Fluorescent tubes and some lamps contain mercury.Risk of exposure to mercury for operator.Substitute or reduce amount of mercury in the product.
For recycling
Presence of Rare Earth Elements and strategic materials in fluorescent powderRare earth elements present in fluorescent powders are not recovered yet.Facilitate the identification and the separation of fluorescent powders containing rare earths.
Presence of lamps which are not compatible with the grinding processes such as plasticized tubes.Plasticized tubes are not grinded by grinding machines.Facilitate the identification of relevant products (color code, marking, ...) which are separated from the rest of the stream and processed manually.
Limit elements that disrupt grinding.
Presence of product categories that disrupt recycling :
- UV tubes
- Tubes equipped with an ignition strip
The glass fraction is polluted by aluminium oxide from UV tubes or metallic ignition strip.Facilitate the identification of glass tubes containing incompatible elements added to glass recycling and reduce use of these elements.
Facilitate the separation of metal parts (magnetic sorting) from the glass fraction.
Presence of lamps containing sodium in the waste stream.Risk of reaction during the handling of lamps in case of contact with water.Improve the identification of relevant products (color code, marking) to facilitate their treatment separately.
Reduce use of sodium.
LED lamps are actually collected in small quantities and are mixed and recycled with other lamps.Rare Earth elements and strategic materials present in these products are not currently recycled separately.Improve the identification of relevant products (color code, marking) to facilitate their treatment separately.
Some luminaries are sent to treatment without previously removing lamps.No recycling of these lamps.Facilitate separation of lamps from luminaries.
For reuse, remploy
No re-use for these products.

Figure 3: Different types of fluorescent tubes


– Recylum website

– ADEME. Annual report « Equipements Electriques et Electroniques ». Données 2010

– Mass balance Lamps 2016 – Récylum for ADEME (French Environmental Agency) –French

– l’INRS guide: « La filière des lampes usagées, aide au repérage des risques dans les points de collecte et les entreprises de collecte et de recyclage »French

Updated on July 31, 2017

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