First international conference on PV module recycling

More than 200 experts in photovoltaic (PV) energy, waste management and recycling participated in the 1st International Conference on PV module recycling organized by PV CYCLE and EPIA on 26 January 2…

More than 200 experts in photovoltaic (PV) energy, waste management and recycling participated in the 1st International Conference on PV module recycling organized by PV CYCLE and EPIA on 26 January 2010. Attendees to the conference, organized in collaboration with the European Commission“s Joint Research Centre, had the opportunity to learn directly from different industry associations and companies what is being done to implement recycling mechanisms and, in turn, minimize the environmental impact of end-of-life solar panels. Since the early years of photovoltaics, in the 1990s, customers and industry alike have shown their dedication for protecting the environment and finding a reliable solution for the adequate disposal of modules, explained Eleni Despotou, EPIA deputy secretary general. An increasing number of manufacturers are working on the development of new and more effective recycling processes. However, the quantities of PV modules available for recycling are still too low to make any private scheme 100% commercially viable. This is why initiatives such as PV CYCLE can really make a difference for the industry. The forecast presented in a study commissioned by EPIA and the founding members of PV CYCLE, states that, in 2010, approximately 3,000 tonnes of PV modules will be disposed of in Germany, representing almost 50% of all the PV waste produced in Europe this year. Even if this figure is expected to remain almost stable for the next 20 years, according to the study, by 2030 about 130,000 tonnes of end-of-life PV modules will be disposed of in Europe. Because solar panels have a very long life span, the volumes of end-of-life PV modules will not start growing considerably for at least another 20 to 25 years from now. However, the industry has proactively begun to prepare. The take-back and recycling scheme that is being set up by PV CYCLE, which this month has become operational in Germany, will be fully operational by the time that significant quantities of modules start being disposed of. This scheme will be implemented gradually across the European Union and EFTA countries, stated PV CYCLE“s managing director Jan Clyncke. Representatives from related industry sectors also shared their experiences regarding the processes their companies have successfully implemented for TV monitors, electronic appliances, as well as glass recycling. The last part of the conference was dedicated to learning about recycling and collection activities in the US as well as to discussing issues regarding the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of photovoltaics and the mathematical model of PV recycling infrastructures. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) is the world“s largest industry association devoted to the solar photovoltaic electricity market, with over 200 members. PV CYCLE, with members representing more than 85% of the European photovoltaic market was founded in July 2007 to implement a voluntary take-back and recycling programme for end-of-life PV modules.