Global Environment Centre Foundation

Search by Keywords
Home > NETT21 > Waste Recycling Technologies and Recycling Promotion Initiatives in Eco-towns in Japan

Data Entry: September 2011
Name of recycling technology Recycling of Used Fluorescent Lamps
Name of recycler Japan Recycling Light Technology & System
Location Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture
Name of eco industrial park Kitakyushu Environmental Industrial Complex
Receiving waste materials for recycling Used fluorescent lamps 
Recycled products/recovered materials
Glass cullet without tin coating (for glass tube of fluorescent lamps)
Glass cullet with tin coating (for glass wool and glass tube of fluorescent lamps)

Aluminum/metal materials

Tri-phosphor (for fluorescent lamps)
Halo-phosphor (for cement material)

Mercury before refining (for mercury lamps)

(Source: brochure of Japan Recycling Light Technology & System Co., Ltd.)
Capacity of recycling plant 18.3 t/day (when the plant is operated 12 hours/day)
Area of recycling plant 9,000 m2 
Number of employees in recycling plant Management/clerical staff: 10, Plant workers (contract workers): 20 (as of 1 July 2010)
Start of recycling operation October 3, 2001
Technical description Used fluorescent lamps are crushed and shredded to recover glass cullet, aluminum/metal materials, phosphor, and mercury.

Recycling process (Source: brochure of Japan Recycling Light Technology & System Co., Ltd.)

The recycling process consists mainly of the following processes:

- Used linear and circular fluorescent lamps received are recycled on separate processing lines.
- Used fluorescent lamps received are cut by heat near both ends to remove the end caps. For linear fluorescent lamps, phosphor is recovered after cutting the end caps. To recover tri-phosphor and halo-phosphor separately, tri-phosphor fluorescent lamps are processed separately from other fluorescent lamps.
- Next, fluorescent tubes are crushed and shredded into glass cullet. In this process, phosphor is detached and recovered from glass. For linear fluorescent tubes, glass tubes with tin coating are separated from those without tin coating by measuring the electrical resistance of the glass tube. Glass tubes with and without tin coating are crushed and shredded on separate processing lines.
- Separated glass cullet is washed and dried to remove mercury, and sold as a recyclable material.
- Recovered phosphor is heated; mercury contained in phosphor is vaporized, removed, and recovered. Phosphor and mercury recovered in this process are sold as raw materials for recycling.
- End caps removed from fluorescent tubes are crushed, shredded, washed, and dried on a separate line. Metal and aluminum materials are recovered by a magnetic separator and an aluminum separator, and sold as raw materials for recycling.

Technological features
  • Recovered glass cullet and phosphor are recycled as raw materials by Toshiba Lighting & Technology Corporation to manufacture fluorescent lamps (OCM).
Background of starting recycling business and participating in eco-town program
  • Exploring new business fields
    - Their parent company is Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc., which generates and supplies electric power in the Kyushu region.
    - In Japan, deregulation of electric utilities has been under way since 1995, so their parent company has been exploring viable new businesses in terms of potential and corporate social responsibility.
  • Parent company's strong interest in the environment
    - Before this recycling business was launched, there were only a few companies collecting used fluorescent tubes in Japan. In most cases, only mercury was recovered from the lamps; glass and metals were landfilled without being recycled.
    - Their parent company therefore decided to enter the business of recycling fluorescent lamps (i) to help build a sound material-recycling society and (ii) because the demand and potential for recycling fluorescent lamps were expected to be high.
Fund procurement The initial business cost was about JPY950 million. However, the company was able to receive subsidies from the national government (JPY400 million) and the City of Kitakyushu (JPY20 million). The rest was financed by bank loans.
Major success factors
  • Management policy based on resource recycling
    - Since commencing operations, management policy has focused on helping to promote recycling and build a sound material-recycling society.
    - The company has worked to achieve a "lamp to lamp" cycle, with the equipment and layout of the recycling plant designed accordingly. The concept has effectively shown the need for collecting and recycling fluorescent lamps.
  • Participation of a skilled engineering company in their recycling business
    - Nishinippon Plant Engineering and Construction Co., Ltd. (which designs, builds, operates, and maintains various plant facilities) invested their recycling business, so they could use its technologies in their recycling business.
  • Cooperation from an environmentally-aware fluorescent lamp manufacturer
    - The company was looking for a company that would reuse their recovered glass cullet and phosphor as raw materials for manufacturing fluorescent lamps. The company found a fluorescent lamp manufacturer which was strongly interested in the environment and recycling, and was willing to purchase glass cullet and phosphor from them.
  • Parent company's creditworthiness and support
    - In financing the initial business cost, the company was able to secure loans from banks thanks to their parent company's creditworthiness.
    - In increasing the collection of used fluorescent lamps from companies and local governments and expanding sales channels for recycled fluorescent lamps, the company received full support from their parent company (Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc.) and Nishinippon Plant Engineering and Construction Co., Ltd.
  • Support from local governments
    - When the company was looking for a plant site, the Kitakyushu City Government was developing an environmental industrial complex and attracting companies, and the company was able to secure a plot because their mission met the requirements.
    - Recycled fluorescent lamps are recognized as a Kitakyushu Eco Premium product, and are purchased preferentially by the Kitakyushu City Government.
Issues and Challenges
  • Collecting used fluorescent lamps
    Success in their recycling business requires the collection of sufficient amounts of used fluorescent lamps. However, this was not possible when they started out because:
    - In Japan, national laws did not require the recycling of used fluorescent lamps, so there was limited need to actively recycle the lamps.
    - At that time, other companies were collecting used fluorescent lamps, but most of them only recovered the mercury while glass and metals were landfilled, so their recycling cost was lower.
    • Local governments collect large volumes of used fluorescent lamps as part of household waste, while large companies, universities, railway companies, large shopping centers, etc. generate large amounts of the lamps. So, the company visited many local governments and companies to raise awareness about the necessity and importance of recycling the lamps, and also requested local governments to separately collect them from other household waste.
    • In increasing the collection of used fluorescent lamps from local governments and companies, the company received full support from its parent company (Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc.) and Nishinippon Plant Engineering and Construction Co., Ltd.
    • To collect even more lamps, they expanded their coverage to western Japan.
    • The increased collection has enabled them to cut their unit processing price and make their recycling business more competitive.
    • They also create posters (showing the CO2 emissions reduced by recycling fluorescent lamps) and give them to respective local governments and companies to use for raising awareness among companies, local governments, and citizens about recycling fluorescent lamps.
    • Through continuous efforts over the past seven years, they have succeeded in increasing the used fluorescent lamps collected up to about 2,000 tons/year (about 40% from companies, and about 60% from households via local governments).
  • Unique collection efforts
    - Broken fluorescent lamps emit mercury, which is dangerous. The glass of broken fluorescent tubes cannot be recycled for making fluorescent tubes, so it is important not to break used lamps in the collection process.
    - Fluorescent lamps are light, so to increase the transportation efficiency, it is necessary to transport them in bulk.
    • Special containers are supplied to collection/logistics companies to collect, store, and transport used fluorescent lamps.
    • The company works in partnership with (i) agency companies that collect and temporarily store used fluorescent lamps in their local areas and (ii) designated companies that transport used fluorescent lamps in large volumes in respective regions. Thus, they have created a system for efficiently collecting and transporting used fluorescent lamps from the expanded collection areas.
  • Commendation by public organizations
    - In 2008, their fluorescent lamp recycling business won the Special Jury Award in the Eco-Services Category of Eco-Products Award in Japan.
    - In 2009, their fluorescent lamp recycling business was commended by the Clean Japan Center as a material-recycling technology/system.
Future prospects Because phosphor contains rare metals, the recycling of used fluorescent lamps is likely to offer new business opportunities in the future.
  • Success in the recycling business requires the collection of sufficient amounts of used fluorescent lamps. To ensure success, it is necessary to raise the awareness of companies, local governments, and citizens to improve the environment.

Maintained by Global Environment Centre Foundation (GEC)