Where is The Recycling of LED Bulbs?

The LED market is growing. Used in our screens, cars and bulbs, their exceptional life span. But are LEDs at the end of their life recycled? Hervé Grimaud, Managing Director of Recylum, an eco-organization responsible for collecting used light bulbs, gives us an update on the situation.

” In 2014, we collected about 10 tons of LED bulbs, or nearly 200,000 units out of a total of 4,600 tons of bulbs, ” says Hervé Grimaud, Managing Director of Récylum . “It’s still very insignificant, but we’re working on it,” he says. Because LEDs have been developing for a few years in the lighting market , there is a very wide variety of products, both in terms of form and the consituants used. Tests are therefore under way to study the best way to recycle them.
Although the technology is evolving very quickly, “recycling an LED lamp is not very complicated, ” says Hervé Grimaud. Nevertheless, the low volume collected today requires us to make tests on the industrial processes to be put in place to do this. ” Today, we put the LED bulbs aside in the warehouses to have sufficient quantities to make tests and thus improve the processes ,”clarifies the CEO of Récylum. ” We need to have a few more LED lamps to have a volume that allows us to see the diversity of these lamps ,” he said.

A Global Recycling Of Leds In Perspective

Several analyzes have already been carried out to study the constitution of these lamps. For this, Recylum works with the BRGM, universities and manufacturers of recycling machines. These studies represent approximately € 150,000 in research and development.
LED bulbs include some strategic metals such as indium, gallium and some rare earths. ” It will be interesting to recover these strategic metals when significant volumes are available. This will not only affect the LEDs of the lamps, but also the LEDs of cars and televisions. It will be necessary that the industry develops on the problematic LED beyond the problem of lighting, “insists Hervé Grimaud.
In order to develop recycling of LEDs, the eco-organism is also interested in the problem of chips (smart cards) present in LEDs. The extraction of the strategic metals present in these chips is done by hydrometallurgy. It is therefore necessary to supply the industrialists with whole chips. ” The problem to be solved is a mechanical problem: how to burst the lamps to separate the different materials without crushing the card? “Explains Hervé Grimaud. Various manufacturers of recycling machines undertake these feasibility tests.

Where To Put The Limit For Collection?

Several connected products are developing: we now find bulbs that emit several colors, LEDs containing a Bluetooth speaker , LED motion detectors, etc. These new products will make recycling more complex.
” There is an abundance of technologies today that makes the exercise of predicting the quantities and quality of the lamps very difficult, ” warns Hervé Grimaud. Will the connected lamps be considered as a lamp or as waste electrical and electronic equipment ( WEEE )? ” We must look at the gestures of collection and not add complexity, ” judges the professional. Since consumers have become accustomed to bringing their light bulbs back into the collection bins, it would be good to keep current sorting instructions for all lamps. Depending on the recycling lines developed, the collector will then, if necessary, sort more specifically downstream. This is the price to pay to continue to increase the level of collection while developing new connected products!