Are solar panels recyclable and what does that mean in the UK

Houses with solar panels

As solar panel installers covering Sutton and Croydon we’re not experts in recycling.  Also as installers we are not directly responsibility for the disposal of panels and batteries. Nevertheless, we feel it is right to do our best to inform customers.

The situation is ever changing and our customer will probably not need to think about this for several decades, but this what we understand.

Yes, solar panels CAN be recycled

Solar panels are made of glass, metal, and plastics, as well as semiconductor materials like silicon which can be separated and recycled. Most domestic solar panels installed in the UK are the  photovoltaic (PV) type which are easier to recycle that other types.

Recycling can recover up to 90% of the photovoltaic glass and also up to 95% of the semiconductor material necessary for further production1.

But, solar panel in the UK are not being recycled enough.

As the BBC reports there is a challenge to stop solar panels becoming a ‘waste mountain’. The British government say there are tens of millions of solar panels in the UK and expert say the infrastructure to recycle them is lacking.

 “It’s going to be a waste mountain by 2050, unless we get recycling chains going now,” Ute Collier – Deputy director of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Manufacturers responsibilities are growing

The UK Environmental Agency require professional disposal of solar panels as all contain small amounts of toxic waste.

Since 2018 Solar panels are considered electronic waste (e-waste), and their disposal and recycling are regulated by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.  This requires the proper handling and management of electronic waste, including solar panels, to minimize environmental impact.

The directive places a strong emphasis on the producers responsibility for the disposal and recycling of their products once they reach the end of their life cycle. This typically involves joining a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS),  who manage the collection and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment. Here are a few of them:

  • Valpak:  One of the leading compliance scheme providers in the UK.
  • European Recycling Platform (ERP) UK.
  • Ecosuret.
  • Recolight.
  • Comply Direct.
  • PV CYCLE –  this is the only one here that is specifically focused on the photovoltaic (PV) industry.

The property owner’s responsibilities

Disposal of solar panel still falls to the property owner.  We’re told that presently UK solar panel users can contact PV CYCLE website to arrange free collection of old solar panels. They are based in Belgium, but cover the UK.

No doubt as more household need to dispose of panels the option will grow and clarity of how to do this will become better. Producer Compliance Schemes are still relatively new and warning from environmental experts will impact of Government procedures.

If you want to learn more about home solar panel installations please see the contact form below or contact me on 020 8914 8297 . We are never pushy!  See our reviews:

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We install solar panels and batteries in these South London (UK) areas:

Wallington, Purley, Carshalton, Coulsdon, Sutton, Croydon, Merton, Wimbledon, Streatham. Tooting, Mitcham, Reigate, Sevenoaks, Chipstead, Banstead, New Malden, Surbiton, Bromley, Beckenham.

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Your Local Electrician

Anthony Jones

I'm an electrician based in Surrey. I run two small family business called Wandle Electrical Services  and The London Electric Radiator Company. I'm also a MCS certified solar panel installer.