PV waste: 28 tons collected in Panama and Senegal

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From pv magazine France.

Born out of a solar industry recycling initiative, the PV Cycle Association launched its PV Cycle Global Membership 18 months ago, aimed at the collection and treatment of PV waste from outside Europe.

“In Europe, legislation regulates recycling and we have a system of collection and processing [of solar waste] that is effective; outside of Europe there is no legislation and there were more and more requests from members asking for help [for collection and recycling],” Bertrand Lempkowicz, communications officer for PV Cycle, told pv magazine.

Since the program started, three tons of waste have been collected in Panama and 25 tons in Senegal. Solar systems installed in those nations are not at the end of their life as panel lifespan ranges from 20 to 30 years, the waste collected includes panels with defective elements, broken during transport or construction and equipment damaged by bad weather.

“In Latin America for example, where the photovoltaic market is booming, it is estimated that around 1% of what is installed in five years should become waste, and this is already a good amount of panels,” said Lempkowicz.

Local recycling

The waste from Panama and Senegal was shipped to Antwerp, Belgium, where the port is near a recycling center. Although transport was optimized through the use of appropriately-sized containers, the optimal approach would be on-site recycling.

“The efficiency at the CO2 level is not the same as what we would have in Europe because the transport is longer, but implementing a recycling unit locally today does not make sense. It will happen in the future,” said Lempkowicz.

PV Cycle does not operate recycling centers and instead uses facilities run by private companies. “If there are not enough gigawatts installed in a region, companies will not invest in a recycling center because it would not be profitable,” added Lempkowicz. For now, the association has contacts in South America it says will eventually enable local recycling. Another company will be responsible for collecting East African panels which will be shipped to Europe as soon as the quantities are sufficient to completely fill containers.

In the meantime, in its continuing effort to reduce its carbon emissions, PV Cycle has launched a program to recover almost 10,000 panels in Guyana – by canoe.