Lightcycling in Northern Germany

So I was visiting the suburbs of Hamburg, Germany recently and was asked to dispose of a used CFL lamp.  The owner knew it didn’t go into the trash or other recycling picked up through the curbside services, but where does it go?

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In Germany there is often a “Recyclinghof” nearby in the suburbs where people can bring household recyclables free of charge. This is always a good default option.

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If looking for the most convenient option, LightCycle, a producer responsibility organisation with a focus on collecting end-of-life lamps in Germany, has a nice tool on their website for looking up the closest recyclinghof or retailer in the area (in the Hamburg region this is most often the large pharmacy chain Budnikowsky). The tool also indicates that returning to the retailer is pretty convenient if you live in the city – no need for a car to get to the recyclinghof!

map lightcycle

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Lighting – what do you know?


When we think of “old” light bulbs we might think of the incandescent developed and commercialized by Swan and Edison in the 1800s.  But do you know the first demonstrated form of electric light was in the form of a gas discharge lamp in 1705? Modern energy-efficient lighting like CFLs and LEDs find their roots in the earlier versions of carbon arc and incandescent lamps.  With several countries around the world phasing out inefficient lighting products there is increasingly a focus on further developing sustainable lighting technologies. Do you know the country that first banned incandescent bulbs? Do you know how much energy can be saved by using an energy star compact fluorescent bulb rather than an incandescent? See what you know (and don’t know) about energy-efficient lighting in this quiz from National Geographic.

Energy efficient quiz challenge

For a more comprehensive understanding of the evolution and science of lighting, the Edison Tech Center has an interesting multimedia tour of electric light and the 12 basic types of electric light lamps and how they have evolved over time. There you can learn how light created by LEDs is different from CFLs. You also learn the basics of describing light, for example, do you know what range of Kelvins is considered “warm” light?

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SSLerating the future of light

Greenpeach changing bulbs

It really is an interesting time to be working in the field of lighting!  I’ve posted a bit about energy-efficient lighting on this blog, but there is far more potential for the next generation of lighting systems than energy efficiency (though LED bulbs continue to improve their environmental impact performance).

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Solid state lighting (SSL) and LEDs have huge potential to also change the way we think about light. The industry and research are now starting to think beyond the bulb. There has been increasing attention focused on the non-visual effects of lighting and opportunities for lighting applications to further contribute to better health and well-being. There are research projects in both the EU and the U.S. that are seeking to accelerate the uptake and innovation in SSL technology.

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What’s the big deal with small lamps?


In much of the literature around recycling light bulbs there is mention that many consumers are unaware that they can and should recycle these products when done with them.  Because they are small, it is often easy to just throw them in the rubbish bin. However, like other e-waste light bulbs contain metals, glass, and other materials that can be recycled and used for new products, thus decreasing virgin resource use.

Compact fluorescent lamps contain small amounts of hazardous mercury (generally not harmful in the household and significantly less than old thermometers, for example) so another reason to recycle used lamps is to avoid hazardous mercury ending up in landfills, incinerators, or leaching into the environment.  It is important to put them into the correct recycling stream though, as light bulbs in glass recycling can cause problems.  In this blog I will highlight some of the various systems in place for recycling used lamps in different countries (mostly Northern Europe, since we’re here). It would also be interesting to see reader comments if you have experiences of your own!

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