Circular Lighting Report

29 million LED lights go to landfill

29 million led lights end up in landfill

Research shows that around 29 million LED, solar and decorative lights are ending up in landfill in the UK annually.

The in-depth study conducted by Material Focus as part of the Recycle Your Electricals campaign reveals over half a billion what it terms ‘Fast Tech’ items were purchased in the last year alone – one every sixteen seconds. Nearly a half a billion of these (471m) end up in landfill each year.

Fast Tech is now the UK’s fastest growing e-waste stream, with 90 per cent of items bought are quickly binned.

Like with ‘Fast Fashion’, people buy small, relatively cheap items (£4 on average per electrical item) that can be seen as ‘disposable’ but even low-cost electricals contain precious materials and should never be binned, says Materials Focus.

There are over 100,000 tonnes of waste electricals thrown away every year and 880 million electrical items (of all kinds) lying unused in UK homes.

This emerging issue is the tip of the iceberg of a bigger challenge of electrical waste in the UK, with the valuable materials contained inside these items – gold, aluminium, and lithium –  lost forever when thrown away.

headaches,’ Scott Butler, executive director of Material Focus, told the Circular Lighting Report. ‘People should think carefully about buying some of the more frivolous Fast Tech items in the first place. But as FastT ech items are quite cheap and small, people may not realise that they contain valuable materials and will just pop them in the bin, meaning we lose everything inside them instead of recycling them into something new.

‘We want to get the message across that anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled and there’s somewhere near you to do it. The scale of the issue is huge, but there’s an easy solution – just as the trend for recycling and repurposing fashion has grown and grown, we want to encourage the nation to recycle Fast Tech, guilt and fuss-free.’

Fast Tech is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wasted electricals in the UK.  Although, the total number of electrical items thrown away has decreased since 2017 (103 thousand tonnes of electricals are thrown away every year, down 34% partly due to lighter weight items) and more and more people are recycling (60% of people say they regularly recycle their electricals, up from 52% in 2021).

• Diary date: Circular Lighting Live 2024, Recolight’s flagship conference and exhibition, takes place on Wednesday 9 October 2024 at the Royal College of Physicians in London. Free to specifiers, Circular Lighting Live 2024 will feature leading experts, specifiers and policy makers who will share their insights into forthcoming standards and legislation, emerging technologies and new business models. More info:

Photograph: Tom Fisk

Ray Molony

Recolight Report is an independent guide to the latest developments in sustainable and circular lighting. Learn about the people, products, projects and processes that are shaping our industry’s low carbon future. Plus: explainers on the latest innovations, opinion from thought leaders and video interviews with leading disruptors. Edited by lighting expert, editor and industry figure Ray Molony.