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Only a Tenth of EU Solar Waste Recycled

ceresJust a fraction of the waste associated with discarded photovoltaic panels is being collected in Europe, according to research by S&T Consulting and solar recycling body Ceres.

There are currently just two waste collection agencies operating in Europe for the photovoltaic industry: PV Cycle and Ceres. There are also national agencies in some EU nations, according to The evolution of photovoltaic waste in Europe.

PV Cycle says it collected close to 3,700 metric tons in 2012. During this same period, Ceres says it collected 1,200 metric tons. This corresponds to an uptake of 10 percent of the potential photovoltaic waste volumes, the report says.

This low uptake rate is largely due to consumers being unaware of their rights, the report says. In addition, as there is no legal requirement to collect PV modules before Feb. 14, 2014, some waste volumes are currently stored by third parties awaiting the emergence of recyclers capable of managing large volumes, the report says.

Last year the amended Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive took affect, meaning that by Q1 2014 at the latest, all EU member countries must implement a national WEEE law. The producers are responsible for the free take-back and recycling of the PV modules.

However, under the EU directive, the producer can be the manufacturer or importer, or eventually, the seller or installer. It is at the discretion of each of the 27 member states to determine what constitutes a producer.

The cumulative volume of waste created from used and discarded photovoltaic waste in Europe will reach 5.8 million metric tons a by 2026, according to the report. In 2027, more than 1 million metric tons of PV waste will need to be collected. In 2028 that figure will be 2 million tons, the report says.

Solar panel makers are generating millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water, hazardous waste that is not always reported, an Associated Press investigation published in February found.

Solar hazardous waste has increased over the past five years alongside the industry’s growth. As of the close of 2012, there was more than 6.4 GW of solar electric capacity installed in the US alone.

The industry’s growth, and the amount of waste that has been generated as a result, is particularly apparent in California, where regulations require industrial plants including solar panel makers to report how much hazardous waste they produce and where they send it, the Associated Press reports.

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