GreenLight Alliance: A Dive into Remanufacturing

As the lighting industry begins to understand the importance of the circular economy, Tom Ruddell of EGG Lighting and Simon Fisher of The Regen Initiative break down the role of remanufacturing in reaching circular goals.

The circular economy is, bit by bit, coming to lighting. But what will it look like? Will it cost more? Will it be compliant? What about lighting quality? Will there be trade-offs? 

There is a growing consensus in the lighting industry that remanufacturing needs to play a part in the solution. Aligned with circular economy principles, remanufacturing seeks to return used products to an as-new condition. In many cases this costs less than equivalent new products and delivers significant carbon and waste reductions. 

Around 40,000 tonnes of commercial lighting equipment is sold per year in the UK, according to figures published by gov.uk (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/waste-electrical-and-electronic-equipment-weee-in-the-uk), but unfortunately only about 7% of the displaced WEEE equipment is properly collected and processed. It’s a wake-up call and an opportunity to do much better.

• We want to see an industry where used luminaires can be collected and treated as assets with residual value, encouraging clients to specify high-quality luminaires that can be remanufactured.

• We want to see new luminaires being designed to be remanufactured. 

• We want to help clients upgrade to modern LED technology for less cost and with less waste than buying new luminaires.

What is remanufacture?

Currently, most non-experts see “remanufacture”, “refurbishment”, “reconditioning”, “rebuilding” and to some extent “reuse” as more or less the same thing. Taking inspiration from established remanufacturing operations across the globe, a group of pioneering organisations have looked to standardisation to help build consensus on these terms and processes. Both authors are involved in a BSI (British Standards Institute) committee established in 2020 whose task is to build on the “process of remanufacture” standard (BS 8887-220) to develop an agreed process for the remanufacture of lighting equipment. We want to ensure that remanufacture is a circular economy process that provides the compliance and commercial guarantees that clients require.

“Remanufacture: return a used product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent or better than that of the newly manufactured product” – BS 8887-2:2009

In contrast, reconditioned or refurbished products may feature small aesthetic defects and/or come with a partial warranty. 

Building Trust

When you buy a new product, you have an expectation and guarantee that the product will be safe, of good and consistent quality and compliant with relevant legislation and standards. Remanufacture must meet the same expectations and it has been for years in other industries.

You can buy certified remanufactured laptops which have gone through hundreds of tests and inspections before being approved and issued with a warranty. Printers, machinery, phones, brake callipers – the list goes on.

What does this mean for lighting? A customer should expect a remanufactured luminaire to be in as-new (or better) condition and performance – with a full warranty. Remanufactured luminaires should be thoroughly tested and documented to support a declaration of safety and compliance with relevant standards and legislation. 

Embodied and operational carbon emissions

Embodied emissions are those that took place in the supply chain to manufacture, transport and install a product and all its components, as well as to dispose of it at the end of life. As businesses are now setting zero carbon targets, quantifying and publishing embodied carbon emissions will become an increasingly important practice. Operational emissions concern the energy used during a luminaire’s service life. These outweigh embodied emissions by an order of 90% to 10%. That means we should always strive for efficiency but it doesn’t mean embodied emissions aren’t hugely significant. In fact, by offering cost reductions compared to new luminaires, remanufacture can be a force for accelerating the deployment of latest-efficiency lighting without wasting complete luminaires.

There are different approaches to measuring embodied carbon. It is a major element within complete Life-Cycle Analyses (LCAs), but also simplified methods and tools can be used just focusing on this area.

Why change?

It’s simple. We must curb our consumption of our natural resources. Carbon reduction and carbon avoidance will become a critical yardstick in the coming years. One of the headline outcomes from 2021’s COP26 was major companies publishing their commitment to decarbonisation. Carbon taxation will almost certainly increase. 

The lighting industry is making several positive steps to reduce consumption and e-waste. This includes mandating that new product development embraces Ecodesign principles, whereby light sources and drivers can be easily replaced. 

In response to this, Egg Lighting and The Regen Initiative are amongst a growing group of companies who are embracing a structured approach to remanufacturing. 

Tom Ruddell, Lead Remanufacture Engineer at EGG Lighting, outlines their approach:

I’ve always felt that designing sustainably should be exciting rather than a burden or a ‘nice to have’. I think designing for a zero-emissions society should and will produce imaginative, innovative, and poignant designs. I think reused materials have a special quality; they have a history and story. This is why I think the approach we’re taking at EGG is so exciting. We’re remanufacturing ‘waste’ aligned to this society-wide challenge, meeting or exceeding the needs of our clients at the same time. 

There’s meaning in adding to material history rather than erasing it and remanufacture can help connect that to skills development and job creation in the green sector in local communities. Circularity is all about collaboration and we are already seeing remanufacturers working closely with compliance schemes, installers, suppliers, and clients. At EGG we have a dedicated installations team that reduces the number of contractors and means all our team is aligned on sustainability.

Measuring the environmental impact of what we do is essential and at EGG we calculate embodied carbon using a methodology developed by CIBSE called TM65, which we think strikes a sensible balance between detail and effort. We do two calculations using TM65 – the embodied carbon incurred during remanufacture (1); and the embodied carbon of an equivalent but 100% new 

product (2). This means we can report the added embodied emissions (1) and also the comparative embodied emissions (2) – (1). The second indicator of interest is simply waste reductions by weight.

When we remanufactured decorative bulkheads for Aberdeenshire council, we measured significant environmental benefits: 2.2kg (77%) of each luminaire was reused and comparative embodied emissions showed a 20.4 kg CO2e saving compared to a new product. At the same time, using the latest LED technology boosted efficiency by 40% and the clunky on/off sensor relay mode was upgraded to a smooth fade. 

The remanufactured option was 25% cheaper than new and provided with a full warranty.

Looking at our remanufacture projects, each one has offered the client a 25-30% cost reduction per product as well as clear embodied carbon reductions compared to new. We always UKCA mark products and provide a full warranty. In each case there has been performance upgrades: new functions, efficiency improvements or better light control. That’s why we think remanufacture is so promising – it makes the circular economy work for clients.

Simon Fisher, Design Collaborator at The Regen Initiative, outlines their approach:

The lighting industry has always contained a niche market for remanufacturing products. Taking existing products and refurbishing them or creating retrofit solutions whereby more efficient lighting components are inserted where once traditional lamp technologies were fitted.

My first full time job in lighting was in a ‘specials’ department and that is pretty much all we did. From emergency conversions to outright bespoke fixture manufacture, to inserting the latest technologies of the day, like 1-10V dimming drivers into new compact fluorescent lamp fixtures.

Remanufacturing could change the lighting industry altogether in a subtle, yet powerful, way. Retaining and reusing existing materials are key to a successful circular economy strategy and this is how The Regen Initiative was conceived.

Delivering solutions with confidence

In partnership with COCO Lighting and Net Zero International, F Mark provides the design and engineering capability for this initiative. 

COCO Lighting is an obvious choice to approach with The Regen Initiative, as it has a vision to make spaces safer, healthier and more sustainable with lighting solutions and already delivers remanufacturing projects. They are used to handling and working with OEM products. In-house testing and photometric services capability mean that the validation of remanufactured products and ensuring that they are always fit for purpose.

Both COCO and F Mark are members of the LIA and are proud to be conducting our processes to the highest standards, so it’s a great partnership.

Measuring the impact

Using Net Zero International, we can be sure just how much of a positive impact we’re making. Net Zero International delivers accredited Net-Zero solutions for businesses and will help quantify the capital value and environmental benefit for businesses who employ The Regen Initiative. Net-Zero International is an approved UN Partner and was formed to help businesses get on the road to Net-Zero, in order to achieve the UN targets of carbon-neutrality by 2050 and halving carbon emissions by 2030. 

Why is this important?

The value changes on a project-by-project basis, but we consider it a fair assumption that we can avoid up to 40% carbon emissions but deploying a scheme using remanufactured lighting fixtures over purchasing new. 

The ability to offer credible, reliable, and sustainable remanufactured solutions will play a key role in minimising consumption and maintaining circular stability.

www.greenlight-alliance.com
www.egglighting.com
www.theregeninitiative.com

This series is curated by Roger Sexton of Stoane Lighting, roger@mikestoanelighting.com