15 July 2019
Passive LED street lamps have longer lifespan and higher recyclability. Photo: HKEJ
Passive LED street lamps have longer lifespan and higher recyclability. Photo: HKEJ

Locally designed street lamp could help cut electrical waste

New passive street lamp technology developed locally promises to alleviate Hong Kong’s problem of electrical and electronics garbage by improving the lifespan of the LED bulbs.

By replacing electrolytic capacitors with film capacitors, the technology improves the cooling and hence can boost the lifespan of the LED street lamps to 15 years.

The design also uses more recyclable metallic materials.

To test out the new technology, the Highways Department has installed 13 such lamps in 2016 and 2017 in two locations — one at Cape D’Aguilar Road in Shek Ko and another at a basketball court in Sha Tin.

The passive LED street lamp was jointly developed by Federal Group Global and the University of Hong Kong.

In April, the product won an award at the 46th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, an annual Swiss event devoted to inventions and innovations.

The new technology is expected to prove useful, given the Hong Kong government’s efforts to reduce the electronics garbage in the city, as well as energy consumption by public facilities. 

In 2016 alone, the street lighting system in Hong Kong consumed around 140 million kWh of power and the electricity bill exceeded HK$100 million.

To save energy, the Highways Department initiated the “LED Public Lighting Replacement Programme” in 2009.

The plan targets to replace 4500 lamps used in high-mast lighting and roadside directional sign lighting in 5 years starting from last year, as well as the replacement of 10,000 sets of fluorescent lamps used in footbridges and subways over a seven-year period.

But as bulbs were replaced, it led to a huge amount of discarded old bulbs, adding to the city’s waste problem. Also, the energy-saving LEDs are not necessarily environment-friendly.

For the traditional LED lamps, “when used indoor, the lifespan is up to ten years, but if used outdoor, they can only last three to four years,” noted William Yu Yuen-ping, chief executive of the World Green Organization, an NGO devoted to environmental issues.

Yu also said that in Hong Kong’s hot and rainy weather, electronic parts of the lamps often suffer from cooling problems, resulting in shortened lifespan, which could generate even bigger electronic waste, due to the use of non-recyclable integrated circuit boards in these lamps.

It is amid this situation that the new passive street lighting developed by Federal Group and HKU holds out the promise of alleviating the waste problem.

The new lamps will last longer and ensure higher recyclability, but there is one downside — they are much more expensive.

The battery cost of one passive LED street lamp is about HK$1,100-1,200, or three to four times higher than that of traditional ones.

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