Please, Australia, recycle your solar panels
Australia leads the world when it comes to using solar energy in residential properties, but a sobering new statistic has shown we’re not very good at recycling.
They can be almost completely recycled as they are mostly made of non-toxic silicon (sand) and glass. Lead, chromium and barium only need to be disposed of in small quantities.
However, at present, almost all broken or expired panels end up in landfills, which creates a major environmental problem. The Clean Energy Regulator has released figures that show that 2.8 million small photovoltaic systems have been installed in Australia, which means that we could expect 100,000 tons of waste in landfills by 2035.
As more and more people use solar systems for cheaper electricity, there will be a lot of old waste in 10-25 years. It is for this reason that people are encouraged to start recycling in order to avoid a significant problem along the way.
Victoria is moving ahead with the ban on e-waste disposal
As of July 1, 2019, the Victorian government banned the landfill of e-waste – including solar panels. The ban includes “all old devices that depend on electrical currents or electromagnetic fields to function properly”.
In a statement on the ban, the Clean Energy Council admitted that the “recycling industry is still in its infancy”, but it is working with the state and the federal government to expand this industry.
In the meantime, anyone who needs to dispose of their panels will be directed to the Planet Ark website. Independent operators have since started recycling and there is hope that more will follow.
Here’s how you can recycle your solar panels
One of the biggest challenges is that there aren’t many places in Australia right now to recycle.
Lotus Energy recently opened a PV recycling facility in Melbourne that can recycle 100 percent of the disused PV modules. Reclaim PV followed shortly thereafter in Adelaide.
Clive Fleming runs Reclaim PV, and he said their service is Australia-wide, with the company offering pick-up, drop-off and pick-up locations from every location in the country. It only costs $ 10 (plus freight) to recycle a single panel.
Homeowners are encouraged to use these services to ensure their system does not end up in landfills. Mr Fleming said the biggest challenge right now is getting the average Australian to realize that these services exist.
“Homeowners come and pay to recycle their records,” he said. “The biggest challenge is developing the network and making sure people know that they actually have another choice than landfill.”
The more people do this, the more the costs will eventually fizzle out. Once those facilities produce enough materials for sale to cover their operating costs, recycling will likely become a free service – possibly even a service where the facilities pay for the panels.
To do this, however, Australians must choose to be more environmentally conscious.
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