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Everything You Need to Know about Solar Panel Recycling

Everything You Need to Know about Solar Panel Recycling

The solar industry is booming, and with it, there are growing concerns about the waste it produces. Fear not! We want to assure you that solar panels can be environmentally friendly and recycled! Much research and development are focused on improving the efficiency of solar panels. Conversations on the topic of recycling solar panels are particularly uncommon. In this article, we tell you all you need to know about solar panel recycling.

The Benefits of Solar Panel Recycling

If solar power systems are to genuinely be sustainable and environmentally ethical, the waste reduction associated with solar components must be addressed. End-of-life solar panel recycling can save an abundance of natural resources and reduce production costs. 

Solar panel recycling can be beneficial both environmentally and economically because the energy and cost needed to recover the silicon material from recycled solar panels is only about one-third of what it would be for manufacturing silicon directly. Solar panel recycling can help finance future solar industries because 96% of the materials can be reused to produce new solar panels. It is estimated that recycled material could save USD 450 million by 2030 and USD 15 billion by 2050. Research also shows that around 60 million new solar panels can be produced from recycling by 2030 and around 2 billion by 2050. In addition, recycling plants can create more employment opportunities for job seekers. 

Solar panel recycling

How Can Solar Panels be Recycled?

Presently, Europe, Japan, and the United States are the main countries behind solar panel recycling research. The crystalline silicon and other rare metals in PV panels can be recycled for new equipment production using different emerging technologies. Most solar panel recycling research has focused on recycling rare metal elements and silicon extraction. Currently, there are four methods for solar panel waste processing: 

  1. Component repair 
  2. Module separation 
  3. Recycling of silicon  
  4. Recycling of rare metal elements 


Technology Methods Advantages
Component Repair Two methods to dismantle and analyse faults in the junction box. Can increase the output power of old solar panels.
Module Separation Mechanical separation of broken panels but no separation of any particular type of material involved. Obtained a mixture of different types of materials.

Silicon panel recovered without damage.

Recycling of Silicon Cement-based thermal insulation system and chemical method. Recycling of silicon.
Recycling of Rare Metals Physical methods such as panel breakage and heat-treated or broken by a hammer.

Chemical methods such as blasting, mechanical processing, ion exchange, etc.

Recycling by wet mechanical treatment such as grinding.

Recycling of indium and gallium.

Mix of recycled polysilicon, amorphous silicon, glass.

Table Source 

Policies in Place

In 2012, the European Union included PV components under the ten categories of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive. Thus, solar PV elements must be collected and recycled. The waste management regulations require that all solar panels must be dealt with and manufacturers of PV panels who supply to the European market must pay a recycling fee. The US does fall behind Europe in its waste management policies, however, the state of California (one of the largest solar markets) in the past has proposed supervision and control of the processing of solar equipment.  

The research revolved around solar panels needs to be more focused on managing waste. There is evidence of economic, social, and environmental benefits with recycling solar panels. More effective policy planning and research must take place to reap the environmental benefits of solar systems.  


With over 20 years of experience in the solar energy industry, Intelligent Green Solutions is committed to helping you go solar. Contact us if you have any questions!