More than 200 international experts pave the way for photovoltaic module recycling

More than 200 experts in photovoltaic (PV) energy, waste management andrecycling participated today in the 1st International Conference on PVmodule recycling organized by PV CYCLE and EPIA in collaboration withthe European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Attendees had theopportunity to learn first-hand from different industry associationsand companies what is currently being done to implement recyclingmechanisms and to minimise the environmental impact of end-of-lifesolar panels.

“Since the early years of photovoltaics, in the1990s, customers and industry alike have shown their dedication forprotecting the environment and finding a reliable solution for theadequate disposal of modules,” explained Eleni Despotou, EPIA deputysecretary general. “An increasing number of manufacturers are workingon the development of new and more effective recycling processes.However, the quantities of PV modules available for recycling are stilltoo low to make any private scheme 100% commercially viable. This iswhy initiatives such as PV CYCLE can really make a difference for theindustry.”

According to the forecast presented in a studycommissioned by EPIA and the founding members of PV CYCLE,approximately 3,000 tonnes of PV modules will be disposed of in Germanyduring 2010, which represent close to 50% of all the PV waste that willbe generated in Europe this year. Although this figure will remainrelatively stable for the next two decades, the study shows that by2030 about 130,000 tonnes of end-of-life PV modules will be disposed ofin Europe.

“Because solar panels have a very long life span, thevolumes of end-of-life PV modules will not start growing considerablyfor at least another 20 to 25 years from now. However, the industry hasproactively begun to prepare. The take-back and recycling scheme thatis being set up by PV CYCLE, which this month has become operational inGermany, will be fully operational by the time that significantquantities of modules start being disposed of. This scheme will beimplemented gradually across the European Union and EFTA countries,”stated Jan Clyncke, managing director of PV CYCLE.

Representativesfrom related industry sectors also shared their experiences regardingthe processes their companies have successfully implemented for TVmonitors, electronic appliances, as well as glass recycling. The lastpart of the conference was dedicated to learning about recycling andcollection activities in the USA as well as to discussing issuesregarding the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of photovoltaics and themathematical model of PV recycling infrastructures.

About EPIA over 200 members active along the whole value chain, the EuropeanPhotovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) is the world’s largestindustry association devoted to the solar photovoltaic electricitymarket. For more information on how photovoltaics can become amainstream energy supplier in Europe please consult ‘SET For 2020’, astudy commissioned by EPIA to the strategic management consultancy A.T.Kearney.

About PV CYCLE CYCLE was founded in July 2007 to implement a voluntary take-backand recycling programme for end-of-life PV modules. The members of PVCYCLE currently represent more than 85% of the European photovoltaicmarket. Their goal is to provide clean and renewable energy as well asto embrace the principle of producer responsibility and thereby makethe photovoltaic industry DoubleGreen.