The global growth of solar energy over the past decade has made the photovoltaic industry one of the main pillars of the ongoing energy transition. More and more people are deciding to install their own PV system. Although solar panels are devices with long “expiration dates” (25-30 years), sooner or later they will need to be rid of. By 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar waste annually.
Solar panels cannot be treated as ordinary waste and simply “thrown away”. This is because of their size (it is a waste of large dimensions) and the varying materials they are made of. The main contributor to the total weight of a typical crystalline silicon PV module is glass (75%), followed by polymer (10%), aluminium (8%), silicon (5%), copper (1%) and small amounts of silver, tin, lead, and other metals and components. Therefore, in accordance with the law, they have to be collected selectively and transferred to a specialized recycling facility.