Winston Engineering Inc.

Solar Panels Popularity Generates Concerns About Recycling

The solar photovoltaic (PV) market has grown significantly, leading to concerns about the potential increase in solar panel waste. Most solar panels are made in China with a life expectancy of 25-30 years, and the majority of those currently in use were installed in the last decade. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that between 54 and 160 million metric tons of solar panel waste could be generated. The issue of toxic trash arises due to the composition of solar panels, including glass, plastic polymer, silicon, aluminum, and potentially metals like lead. Currently, only about 10% of solar panels are recycled, and the lack of federal guidelines leads to state-specific regulations and varying costs for recycling. The challenge is to establish consistent and cost-effective recycling practices, potentially through federal policies and industry support for reuse and recycling programs.

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