Renew Magazine publishes in-depth article focusing on solar panel waste, regulations, batteries and solar panel recycling.
The article, Recycling Solar, by Dr Juliette Milbank, outlines the recent growth in solar panel installations in Austrlia. The article references data from the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI), which states Australia’s total installed capacity as over 12.9 GW.
With so many solar panel installations, the next question is what happens to these panels when they reach the end of their life?
Dr Milbank explains, “Until recently, the answer was that they ended up in landfill, and that is still mostly the case. However, some businesses and parts of government have started work on providing the infrastructure and processes to recycle old panels and batteries.”
The author goes on to highlight important work being done by Sustainability Victoria who are looking at product stewardship options and potential regulatory requirements that can promote solar panel recycling. Victoria recently passed legislation banning all e-waste from landfill, as of 1st of July 2019.
Dr Milbank also notes the Australian Standard AS/NZS 5377, which covers e-waste collection, storage, transport and treatment, has not been updated since 2013 and is now under review.
There are environmental and economic benefits to recycling. Much of a solar panel can be recycled, and in doing so this can minimise harm from toxic elements like lead and cadmium. The glass, aluminium and silicon can all be reused, supporting local manufacturing. There is also valuable silver contained within solar panels and recovering the element will extend the life of already dwindling deposits. Solar panel recycling also extends the life of existing landfill sites.
PV Industries feature in the article, with mention of a solar panel deframer that has been purchased from Europe and recognise a need for legislation. “(James Petesic, Co-Founder of PV Industries) cites a need for legislation, as business does not have an obligation to recycle but only to keep costs down, despite PV Industries’ message resonating with many of the businesses they talk to.”
Dr Milbank finishes the article with further information regarding renewable energy system batteries and the need for them to be recycled.