Making our product eco-friendly
GE's environmental, health and safety (EHS) vision is clear and simple. We must keep our workers safe on the job, ensure that we are good neighbours to the communities in which we do business by complying with environmental laws and regulations, and addressing historical contamination issues cooperatively and completely.
The concept of energy efficiency has evolved considerably over the last few years. The Council Resolution on Energy Efficiency in the European Community (98/C 394/01) emphasises the contribution of efficient energy use to environmental protection via the conservation of natural resources. Furthermore, it also confirms the importance of having a energy efficiency strategy at a community level. In order to achieve this target, GE Lighting Europe designs many products that are lighting up our future in an energy-efficient way, not only to save costs, but also to save natural resources to support sustainable development.
The human eye responds to light with wavelengths from about 790 nm (red light) to 430 nm (violet light). Light with wavelengths shorter than the human eye can see is called ultraviolet (beyond violet) light. In recent years the popular press has reported various scientific studies on the possible effects of skin exposure to light sources. However under normal use, there is no risk to humans of damage to the skin, such as sunburn, from light sources. For example, in typical office applications, the exposure to ultraviolet light during an 8-hour-day is equivalent to 10 minutes in the summer sun. UV emission from fluorescent lamps can be measured with the UV-PET value. This shows how many hours a person can stay continuously under the light of a lamp without any damage to the health. At GE Lighting Europe all our lamps must have a UV-PET value of at least 50.
The European Union has developed legislation on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) that requires all defined electrical equipment, which includes lighting equipment to be recycled at the end of their life-cycle. Under the principle of producers´ responsibility, manufacturers are responsible for the collection and recycling of lamps from private households at the end of their lives. These households, as defined in the proposal, include ´all private households as well as commercial, industrial, institutional and other sources, which, because of their nature and quantity, are similar to that from private households´. This proposed legislation was supposed to be implemented in 2005.
GE is involved with the other major lamp manufacturers in Europe in generating actions in individual countries, which assists in the collection and recycling of end-of-life lamps. Part of the requirement of this proposed legislation is that mercury has to be removed from the lamps by a treatment process and that a high percentage of the recovered materials (glass, metal, phosphor) have to be reused. Such requirements require sophisticated lamp processing equipment to recover mercury and separate the lamp constituent materials into their component parts. In order to facilitate the establishment of the recycling system, GE has already started the introduction of separation at shrinkage level in Vác, Nagykanizsa and Enfield. The MRT system separates the phosphor, metal and glass in linear and compact fluorescent shrinkage. As a result of these new installations, the amount of hazardous waste generated has decreased by 80%.
Reducing the amount of waste generated and increasing recycling are the two main continuous targets in waste management within GE Lighting Europe. At the manufacturing sites of Vác, Nagykanizsa and Enfield a recycling system called MRT, separates the shrinkage in linear and compact fluorescent production including glass, phosphor and metal parts. As a result, the shrinkage, classified as hazardous waste according to legal regulations, can be separated and reused in light-source manufacturing, or recycled in some other ways. Consequently, the hazardous waste generation has been reduced by 80% at these sites. The systems were introduced in 1996, thus the following diagrams demonstrate the improvements gained with the MRT system.
Mercury in the products
GE Lighting Europe is focused on the reduction of mercury content in its fluorescent lamp products. The latest amalgam technology has brought a genuine advance in fluorescent lighting. The amalgam is a mercury alloy, which is an up-to-date replacement for the traditional liquid mercury. The amalgam provides benefits like more stable light output in every burning position, and wider optimum operating temperature range.