With rapid PV deployment around the world, comes corresponding PV waste; but are countries prepared and what regulatory and technological approaches should each country integrate? A new report from the IEA PV Power Systems programme investigates PV end-of-life (EOL) practices and has found that further improvements in PV EOL processes are required to meet future demand and to realise high-value, low-cost recycling. Additionally, regulatory, and technological approaches need to be well integrated and adapted to the conditions of each country or region.

Australian co-author of the report, Dr Rong Deng says, “Australia is expected to have more than 10,000 tons of waste solar panels by the mid-2020s mainly coming from replacement of residential PV systems and the volume will surge after 2030. Local waste recycling industries and governments have started taking collaborative and technology-driven approaches to deal with it sustainably.”

Currently, there are no recycling or product stewardship requirements for PV modules, inverters, and batteries in any state or territory in Australia; however, PV systems are a “listed class of products” to consider under the Product Stewardship Act. An activity to evaluate the inclusion of PV systems in the national stewardship program was led by Sustainability Victoria, a statutory authority with a board appointed by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. The findings published in 2019 show that either voluntary or co-regulatory approaches for PV modules might be feasible in Australia and are likely to achieve the environmental, health, and safety objectives of the Product Stewardship Act, improving the management of EOL PV modules and opportunities to reuse valuable materials.

The full press release can be found here and the related IEA Task 12 full report can be found here.