by | Jan 5, 2017

The urgency to ensure the sustainability throughout LED’s lifecycle is growing. The new review produced through the project Lighting Metropolis, seeks to provide a neutral overview of LED’s lifecycle.

As the fast evolving LED industry is transforming our urban areas, the urgency to ensure the sustainability throughout LED’s lifecycle is growing. Our EU-funded project Lighting Metropolis with its 26 partners across Greater Copenhagen is now taking the first step towards making the process more transparent by releasing an unique new review of LED’s lifecycle.

“With this review, we try to provide a neutral overview of LED’s lifecycle as well as making the manufacturing processes and their environmental impact more understandable”, says associate professor Mikael Backman, at IIIEE, Lund University.

Selected points from the review:

  • Lack of academic reports
  • Lack of openness & transparency
  • Need for legislative support
  • Recycling rates for REE* remains at a low 1%
  • Fake certifications need to be addressed
  • Product design can support separation of parts in recycling
  • Usage is key phase across lifecycle
  • The growing lighting-as-a-service can bring sustainable benefits

One of the key deliveries for our EU-funded Lighting Metropolis project is to increase regional knowledge on key lighting aspects; and with LED’s sustainability being one of the most debated, a new & comprehensive review made by the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), at Lund University, reveal LED’s various life cycle phases’ share of the environmental impact, and where the industry needs to become more transparent and open about their processes.

The review shows the urgent need for policy makers to enable a more sustainable recycling for LED, both through legislative work as well as developing methods for the proper separation of material parts – while at the same time providing a persuasive financial incentive that goes beyond any legislative work.

“We need to be clearer about when and how it pays to be green”, says associate professors Thomas Lindhqvist.

The actual usage

IIIEE also report that while the mining of rare-earth metals and the recycling issues have been the most hotly debated and controversial topics in LED’s life cycle phases – it is the actual usage that have the potential to bring the most environmental benefits.

The research has been conducted by students at IIIEE, and associate professors Thomas Lindhqvist & Mikael Backman, within the Lighting Metropolis project. The review will also be used by the IIIEE to create clearer guidelines for commissioners of LED at a municipal level.

“We need to ask ourselves how cities can prevent LED investments from creating problems in the future”, says associate professor Mikael Backman.

*REE = Rare Earth Elements


The IIIEE provides graduate education that equips students with the knowledge, skills and personal qualities needed to become agents of change and future leaders who are capable of advancing sustainable solutions. The IIIEE offers world-leading Master’s education and a Doctoral Programme.