Seven steps: The recycling of luminaires and light sources

In Switzerland, SENS eRecycling organises the collection and environmentally friendly disposal of lights and lamps together with its partner companies. The partners thus ensure that harmful substances are safely removed and recyclable materials are returned to the material cycle. Find out how the recycling of light sources works and how this strengthens the Swiss circular economy.

1 – Return / collection

Consumers hand in their used light bulbs free of charge at the designated SENS collection points or at a point of sale. Both rod-shaped ("neon tubes") and non-rod-shaped light sources (e.g. energy-saving lamps) as well as modern light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can be handed in.

2 – Delivery to recycling centres

Collection centres, specialist and retail outlets or municipalities create a collection order via the partner portal at SENS eRecycling collects the goods and takes them to the recycling centre.

3 – Manual sorting

Non-rod-shaped light sources are always sorted manually before they are processed. LED lamps are sent to the "normal" recycling process for electrical appliances. High-pressure gas discharge lamps (e.g. street lamps) go into a special recycling process.

There is a wide variety of light sources. If you are unsure, the collection centre staff will be happy to help.

4 – Mechanical processing

The light sources are mechanically shredded in shredders.

5 – Separation of harmful substances

Depending on the recycling plant, the mercury-containing fluorescent powder is separated dry or wet-chemically from the glass and residual materials. Vaporised mercury is extracted into an activated carbon filter under negative pressure. After separation, the fluorescent powder is deposited in underground landfills in Germany. In addition to mercury, the fluorescent powder also contains rare earths. These only occur in very small quantities, meaning that recycling is not yet worthwhile. However, as quantities increase, recycling them will become increasingly attractive.

6 – Mechanical sorting

Glass and metal are mechanically separated and made available as secondary raw materials.

7 – Secondary raw materials

Secondary raw materials such as glass, aluminium or other metals are returned to the market as recyclable materials.

1000 tonnes of light sources per year

In 2021 alone, almost 1000 tonnes of light sources were collected via the SENS network. Thanks to the correct disposal of mercury-containing light sources, 76 billion environmental impact points alone were saved. For comparison: For 1000 UBP, you can use your laptop for 15 hours or leave a 60-watt light bulb burning for 10 days. You can find out more about calculating environmental impact points here.