Recycling of photovoltaic panels allows to recover 88% of their materials thanks to the technologies developed to date, according to a study by the environment platform Recyclia and the company Recyberica Ambiental, devoted to the collection and management of electronic waste. The study was released on the occasion of the World Recycling Day celebration, which is celebrated today 17 May.
According to the Recyclia and Recyberica study, out of each ton of photovoltaic panels, with an average weight of 35 kg per unit, the current technology allows to recover 750 kg of glass and silicon-related materials, 120 kg of metals – mainly aluminum metal frames, and, to a lesser extent, wiring copper and iron – and 20 kg of plastic.
Likewise, solar panels may contain environmentally polluting materials, if not properly treated, such as cadmium telluride or silicon dioxide, the latter being a common component of glass. These materials are extracted and separated and then treated through suitable processes to ensure their safety.
Recyclia and Recyberica Ambiental welcome that, only two years after the obligation to recycle solar panels comes into force, the treatment technology, still in development, already allows to exceed by eight points the objective to which the standard binds and equals the percentage of materials retrieved from, for example, a printer or multifunction device.
Recycling of photovoltaic panels
In order to achieve these valorization rates, the institutions draw attention to the need for these devices be collected and treated by agents and plants duly authorized with appropriate processes for the best available technologies.
In Spain, since February 2015, manufacturers and importers of photovoltaic panels are obliged to organize and finance their collection and recycling at the end of their useful life.
Ahead of the regulations, Recyclia is responsible for the management of photovoltaic panels in Spain since 2013, when it signed a collaboration agreement with the European association PV Cycle, responsible for the recycling of this type of equipment throughout Europe and representing more than 90% of manufacturers and importers.
According to data we published last October on Recyclia and PV Cycle, Spain is currently the third European country in terms of photovoltaic modules waste management capacity. In particular, between 2010 and 2015, our country managed more than 1,000 tons (1,037), behind Germany (7,740) and Italy (2,077), for a total European volume of 13,881 tons.
Recovery of wind turbine blades
Also this past July we published how the BRIO Project is working on a new sustainable system for the management and recycling of the blades from wind turbines out of use, either because they have to be replaced due to a fault or because the wind farms have reached the end of their useful life.
The recycling of these large structures has been focused towards the recovery of the materials that compose them, for their subsequent use as secondary raw materials in other products.