Does a Circular Economy Exist Within the UK Lighting Industry?
When discussing an upcoming project with one of our longstanding clients we decided this would be an opportunity to see where the market currently stands and if there was an offering that was truly viable and more importantly, truly circular.
Firstly, we would like to caveat this piece by pointing out we have by no means carried out an exhaustive appraisal of the lighting industry’s circular economy offerings, more of a ‘toe dip’ into the offerings available from a selection of the larger manufacturers.
Most manufacturers claim sustainable credentials of some sort, and with no formal classification for these, they can vary greatly. Sadly, while many of these sustainable credentials are packaged up to look very impressive, they are essentially no more than you and me popping our milk carton into the recycling bin and claiming we are a sustainable consumer.
Initiatives like planting trees, using recycled materials, and reducing packaging on luminaires, although laudable, are a drop in the ocean when you consider the vast quantity of luminaires these manufactures are producing.
It didn’t take long before it became apparent to us that there aren’t any truly circular offerings within the lighting industry yet. OK, so that isn’t 100% true, there are a couple of manufactures making great strides. However, it would require a very niche project for them to be a viable solution.
So how close are we?
Many manufacturers offer an element or two from the circular model, like making components easily removable, replaceable, recyclable, etc. However, in many instances, this is as far as they go. The fact is, there are so many more parts to the puzzle, and as much as these companies would like this to be someone else’s responsibility… they aren’t.
One thing that is evident is that truly circular offerings require a manufacturer to make significant changes across the whole of their business. But without a benchmark upon which they can be appraised for their offerings, many may be reluctant to really push the change.
Hopefully, the recent release of CIBSE’s ‘TM66: Circular Economy Assessment Methods’ will help manufacturers quantify their circular offerings, forcing their hand to improve against the competition, and provide guidance on how they can work towards better circular offerings. In our opinion, this is clearly what has been missing as manufacturers claim they are ‘doing their bit’, with no concrete way of us being able to evaluate how one luminaire compares to another.
Furthermore, as designers, we can no longer sit behind the efficacies and lifespans of luminaires. It is up to us as specifiers and consumers to ensure we push manufacturers to improve. It’s also our duty to ensure clients understand what’s available to them and the implications of their choices.
The lighting industry must do better, but we think times are a-changing!