Beyond recycling: Online marketplace encourages reusing lights

April 28, 2023
U.K.’s Recolight is launching the Circular Place portal in June, matching buyers and sellers. Welcome to “remanufacturing.”

A U.K. lighting recycling specialist that is widening its ecological mission to include the “remanufacturing” of existing products will soon launch a web portal called Circular Place aimed at matching buyers, sellers, and reconditioners of used gear.

Recolight, based in the outer London borough of Croydon, said yesterday that the online marketplace will go live at the end of June. The idea is to dissuade recycling scrapping products and salvaging materials when actual re-use is possible via refurbishment.

The not-for-profit membership group announced Circular Place on April 27in London, at its Remanufacturing Lighting Conference, which brought together remanufacturers, engineers, designers, and others to discuss remanufacturing’s challenges and environmental potential.

Remanufacturing is not a new concept; over the years, it has also gone by other names or fallen into categories such as renovations or retrofits. But it is gaining prevalence amid environmental imperatives to save on materials such as steel, glass, and plastic, and to avoid the carbon impact of making new things.

Recolight has emerged as a leading voice in the U.K. remanufacturing lighting movement. While the organization continues to run a recycling scheme as it has done for nearly two decades it also recognizes that recycling is not always the optimal environmental course of action.

Circular Place, which covers the U.K. only, will become a focal point for Recolight's remanufacturing push.

“We believe that Circular Place can help to bring everybody together those with used lighting that can be remanufactured, and those with surplus new lighting that needs new homes, so that they don’t have to go to recycling,” said Francesca Cameron, Recolight membership coordinator, in announcing the portal during a presentation at yesterday’s conference. About 70 participants from different stops along the remanufacturing value chain are already involved, she noted. The number is expected to grow.

Circular Place will encourage donations of surplus new lighting and will help find offers from buyers. “It will also help for recycling not to be the first and primary action for used fittings,” Cameron added. The portal will post photos of offerings that have both been removed or that are in situ waiting to be removed.

In the lighting remanufacturing process, remanufacturers can convert fluorescent fittings to LED luminaires, something which might become of greater interest to end users as the U.K. phases out fluorescent tubes. They can also upgrade or modify LED fittings and luminaires.

Remanufacturers tend to hold on to most, but not all, of the materials and housings from the old fittings. In one type of scenario, the remanufacturer could send back the refurbished lights to the original user for reinstallation. In another scenario, new users take hold of remanufactured goods.

While remanufacturing is full of potential, it also has plenty of challenges and details. Costs are ostensibly lower than new production, but surprises can upset that equation. On a related note, remanufacturers are taking on ownership and legal responsibility for remade product, and can sometimes find that certifying them for safety marks such as the the U.K.’s UKCA (roughly equivalent Europe’s CE and UL in the U.S.) can be expensive.  Aesthetic design is another issue.

In the broad sustainability perspective, remanufacturing will take a place alongside, or will sometimes compete against, new products designed with eco credentials. Those include Signify’s 3D-printed Coastal Breeze luminaires, fabricated using old fishnet as manufacturing filament; and and Glamox’s luminaires made from recycled aluminum.

Remanufacturers come from the ranks of vendors who make new product, and also include remanufacturer-only specialists. Some U.K. remanufacturers who traveled from around the country to  present or discuss at yesterday’s conference included Future Designs, EGG Lighting, LlumarLite Lighting Solutions, COCO Lighting through its design partner F Mark, Tridonic, Commercial Lighting Solutions, and Martech, among others.

Watch for a full report on the conference, and on the trials and tribulations of remanufacturing, in the next issue of LEDs Magazine.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.