Residential Solar Panel Recycling Regulations in the UK

Getting disposed of the dismantled photovoltaic systems in UK households often seems daunting. The rising dependence on renewable energy resources in residential units has increased massively over the last few decades. Fortunately, residential solar panel recycling is one of the most sustainable technologies and a cost-effective option to extract valuable raw materials from obsolete PV systems. 

In this blog post, we explore the details of recycling residential PV modules in the UK and their implications for the nation. 

Is There Any Regulation for Solar Panel Disposal in the UK 

The government of the UK follows the e-waste management policies and guidelines of the WEEE Directive of the European Union. WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU was compiled by the European Parliament and of the Council. It serves as a documentation tool for safe and efficient e-waste management. However, these directives are not subject to any legal enforcement or obligations. 

WEEE Directive of July 4 2012, confers insights and practical initiatives for safe e-waste management. These guidelines were devised to eliminate the adverse impact of hazardous and toxic substances in electronic goods on the environment, ecosystems, and human health.    

Understanding EU Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive

As per the WEEE directive, solar panels are hazardous e-waste like mobile phones, computers, television sets, refrigerators, home appliances, etc. Solar energy is a clean and renewable energy resource. But, disposing of inoperative PV panels in landfills can result in a critical climate doom. 

The objective of the WEEE directive is to address the multiple concerns evolving due to the disposal of electronic waste at the dumping grounds as garbage. 

  • It highlights the importance of recouping the raw materials from discarded electronic products 
  • Efficient allocation of valued resources extracted by recycling for the production of new goods
  • Enhance sustainability to protect the ecosystems and healthy living 

Residential Solar Panel Recycling – Revolutionising E-waste Management  

There are enormous possibilities to commission old defunct solar panels to retrieve 85-95% of the materials, contributing to the economic value. The primary aspect focuses on deriving precious raw materials for remanufacturing electronic goods and photovoltaic systems. 

At present, the first generation of PV panels installed during the 1990s and 2000s is estimated to attain the end of life by 2025-2030. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, only 10% of the defunct solar modules are recycled. The rest end up in the garbage sites. This massive wastage of resources lies in the lack of public awareness and infrastructural support. 

When do Photovoltaic Panels Attain End of Life 

The lifecycle of high-quality solar panels is usually 20-30 years. With state-of-the-art maintenance, these systems can bestow moderate efficiency. Unfortunately, exposure to extreme weather impacts causes structural degradation and failure in PV systems. 

In most cases, the solar panels need replacement due to: 

  • Optical losses – PV systems with optical failure obstruct the sunlight from reaching the solar cells. 
  • Deteriorating energy output efficiency – 19% of solar panels are decommissioned due to loss of power due to gradual degradation of the PV cells. 
  • Dysfunctional junction box – It serves as a connector between the PV strings in the solar panel. A faulty junction box should be immediately replaced to prevent short-circuit and fire breakout. 
  • Broken safety glasses – The tempered solar glasses protect PV cells from oxidation, humidity, and debris. These structures create supreme insulation to prevent leaking of the electrical current. Constant exposure to heat and extreme weather conditions results in the solar glass shield wearing and breakage in 10% of units. 
The disposal of dismantled outdated photovoltaic modules in the UK is subject to WEEE regulations. Evolution Solar Recycling is a certified company offering nationwide residential solar panel recycling with compliance with safety norms and electronic waste management. We are registered PV panel recyclers skilled in removing all types of solar cells and complicated electrical installations.

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