Solar recycling market ‘could be worth $15bn by 2050’

Recycling old solar panels can result in significant business opportunities. That’s according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which states decommissioned solar panels can be recycled to unlock a wealth […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Recycling old solar panels can result in significant business opportunities.

That’s according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which states decommissioned solar panels can be recycled to unlock a wealth of raw materials and valuable components.

Its report estimates solar panel waste, comprised mostly of glass, could total 78 million tonnes globally by 2050. The value of the recovered material could exceed $15 billion (£10.2bn) by 2050, enough to produce two billion new solar panels.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin said: “Global installed PV capacity reached 222GW at the end of 2015 and is expected to further rise to 4,500GW by 2050. With this tremendous capacity growth will come an increase in waste associated with the sector.

“This brings about new business opportunities to ‘close the loop’ for solar PV panels at the end of their lifetime. To seize these opportunities, however, preparations for the surge in end-of-life material should begin now.”

In most countries, old solar panels are considered general waste. However, the EU has adopted specific regulations, which include collection, recovery and recycling targets.

Directives now require producers that supply solar panels to the EU market to finance collection and recycling costs.