Solar-powered outdoor luminaires: unfortunately, it’s not just plastic

Solar energy is ecological, the lamps themselves are by no means

“The garden light is neither recyclable packaging nor just plastic, so a container for packaging waste is not a place for it. In addition, for many, a solar-powered luminaire is associated with ecology, but the truth is that such luminaires usually contain toxic substances such as cadmium and lead. Luminaires can also contain tungsten or mercury. Therefore, it is important that such luminaires do not end up in landfills, but are handed over to authorized handlers, ”points out Eglė Razbadauskaitė, Publicity and Marketing Specialist of the Packaging Management Organization (PTO).

Photo of the WTO / Publicity and Marketing Specialist of the Packaging Management Organization Eglė Razbadauskaitė.

According to her interpretation, garden lamps with solar panels are complex electronic products and their waste is disposed of in the same way as electronic waste. According to E.Razbadauskaitė, we have a well-developed electronic waste collection network in Lithuania, and we should use it. Otherwise, eco-friendly outdoor lighting will become pollutants that are harmful to the environment and human health.

“The simplest outdoor luminaires are usually lightweight, and most of them are made of plastic. In addition, plastics containing flame retardants, so-called flame retardants, should also be required. Conventional plastic packaging, which we throw away in special packaging containers, is made in a completely different composition and is usually easily recycled using well-known technologies. Unfortunately, this will not be the case for waste outdoor solar lamps, ”explains the WTO spokeswoman.

Many plastic products are not destined for recycling

E.Razbadauskaitė also points out that most inexpensive outdoor luminaires with solar batteries are sold as indivisible products, so after only a couple of years their batteries may no longer be suitable for use, although the luminaire itself or the light bulb installed in it is still healthy. Unfortunately, vendors of such luminaires do not usually offer separate batteries for such devices. So the age of a chandelier that delights us is sometimes just two or three years.

“Some proponents of green living are calling for the lights to be used a second time, after dismantling the bulbs and batteries. The waste from the latter is also collected through an electronic waste collection system. Meanwhile, the luminaires themselves can still be useful, as long as we do not lack ideas and a desire to extend the life of products, thus contributing to sustainability, ”notes E. Razbadauskaitė.

PTO photo / Sort, so think

PTO photo / Sort, so think

It also points out that it is not all plastics that should be disposed of in plastic packaging containers, but packaging that is subject to increasingly stringent recyclability requirements every year. Meanwhile, many people still do not get the news that many plastic products that are not packaging are not of interest to plastic recyclers because they are either very difficult and expensive to recycle, or simply impossible to recycle. Waste from unprocessed plastic products is, at best, simply incinerated in special safe facilities, recovering energy.

How can we reuse obsolete outdoor luminaires?

  • Let’s make candles for outdoor candlesticks or lanterns.
  • After using one or more such lamps, let us install a feeder.
  • In summer, birds can benefit from a drinker or bathing area made of such lamps.
  • Obsolete outdoor lights are great seedling markers in the garden.
  • Important: If you do not use the luminaire for its original purpose, remove the batteries and bulbs!

About the Packaging Management Organization

Public Institution Packaging Management Organization is a non-profit public legal entity, the purpose of which is to develop an efficient packaging waste management system on behalf of producers and importers and to carry out public education and information activities, implement legal obligations for producers and importers handling tasks.

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