Solar Industry to Face Solar Waste Recycling Issues
As solar panels gain widespread acceptance, the issue of solar waste recycling is emerging as an environmental concern. Cleantech companies are developing methods of recycling and reusing potentially toxic components of solar waste, especially when solar panels and other solar components are removed at the end of their life cycle.
Like e-waste, solar modules contain some potentially hazardous solar waste materials that will cause environmental pollution. These include cadmium, silicon tetrachloride, selenium and sulfur hexafluoride, a powerful greenhouse gas. As solar applications become more widespread, various groups are looking at the consequences of solar waste disposal in order to avoid the issues caused by electronic waste. The industry is beginning to step up efforts to avoid negative consequences from solar waste and to research effective recycling methods.
Since the life span of solar panels is approximately 20 years, society has not yet faced solar waste disposal and recycling problems, but experts realize that this is the time to plan ahead to implement effective environmental programs. One non-profit group exploring the solar waste recycling area is the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC)], a leader in addressing e-waste problems in the Bay Area. Now SVTC is focusing on the solar boom, and keeps a “Solar Scorecard” on manufacturers that evaluates recycling, end of product life responsibility, also known as “takeback,” supply chain issues, chemical use, and other issues.
Whether firms in the solar industry decide to do their own recycling of solar waste or to outsource the job to third-party recycling companies, the issues around responsibility for and prevention of solar waste will impact both the sustainability of the solar industry and the sustainability of the earth’s environment.