Australia working towards managing end of life for photovoltaic panels

Due to increased uptake of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, end of life (EOL) management needs to be addressed. It is anticipated that in Australia by 2030 there will be a 1700% increase in the total number of PV panels coming to the end of their life due to the solar boom that commenced in 2010. An international report into global PV recycling found Australia has no mandated PV panel recycling capacity or scheme. Victoria is the only state that has a policy relating to PV waste – that covering e-waste disposal. 

Europe has adopted PV-specific EOL regulations that have been in place since 2012, and South Korea will introduce extended producer responsibilities in 2023. In Japan, there are no specific regulations, yet several recycling activities and R&D projects are underway. In the USA, it is a state-by-state scenario. 

Australia is looking towards a product stewardship scheme in line with the Product Stewardship Act 2011. Currently, only a small amount of EOL PV panels are recycled This is mainly due to the transport and processing costs.2  

So, what is a product stewardship scheme?  

All stakeholders in the supply chain, from the producer to the end user and the disposer of the product, have a shared responsibility to reduce the environmental and human health and safety impact. Effective examples include companies using more recycled products in the manufacture of their item, companies designing their products for easier recycling, or limiting the use of hazardous materials in their products. 

The recent creation of the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence and its engagement by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) to establish a “co-design” process has commenced. An Industry Working Group will oversee the co-design process, with a Stakeholder Reference Network being formed, providing opportunities for service providers, businesses, and other stakeholders to contribute. The Centre of Excellence team is keen to hear from those who wish to share solution-orientated perspectives. For more information, download a copy of Stakeholder Reference Network: Communique 1

1 Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence National Product Stewardship Scheme for Photovoltaic Systems [Fact Sheet] 

2 International Energy Agency 2022 Status of PV Module Recycling in Selected IEA PVPS Task12 Countries pg. 34