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Solar PV sector prepares for waste legislation impact

David Burton, Managing Director, Strateco.

There are, potentially, major challenges facing the photovoltaic (PV) sector across Europe as PV modules fall within the scope of new legislation on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Transposition of the ‘Recast’ WEEE Directive in the UK is expected to take place at the end of 2013 and will place obligations on PV producers (predominantly importers and manufacturers) which could involve significant upfront costs.

Current WEEE legislation involves a ‘market share’ calculation, by weight of equipment placed on the market, determining who pays for waste equipment being disposed of – but as it is not limited to one type of product there is a risk that PV producers could be paying for a large proportion of the collection of other waste electrical equipment even though very few PV modules are currently being disposed of and these are being collected by PV CYCLE, the European-wide PV collection and recycling infrastructure.

Jan Clyncke, Managing Director of PV CYCLE confirms that, as UK legislation currently stands, the PV sector producers would be unfairly financially penalised – through placing products on the market which will not become waste for 30 years or more but forcing producers to pay for a proportion of other WEEE which is being collected from consumers through local authority civic amenity sites.

PV CYCLE puts the case forward that there are four key issues to consider when assessing whether such an approach is equitable if levied on producers of photovoltaic panels:

  1. The PV sector is new and has little old product being disposed of as waste today.– and PV CYCLE, already takes care of this waste through dedicated collection points around the UK.

  2. PV modules are expected to last 25-30 years so there won’t be any significant waste to dispose of for another generation.

  3. PV panels would be, by far, the heaviest electrical product in any market share calculation so the impact could be significant.

  4. When they do reach the end of life these installations would not end up in the municipal waste stream as they would be handled by professionals throughout.  

PV CYCLE is now working with its local partner, Strateco, and the UK Government in identifying the best solution to ensure a more equitable and pragmatic approach recognising that there is, undeniably, a strong case for BIS to consider PV panels as a ‘special case’ for treatment.  

David Burton is Managing Director at Strateco Ltd, a visionary strategic environmental business specialising in projects which pre-empt cultural and legislative change and work towards a sustainable society.

PV CYCLE was founded in 2007 as a non-for-profit association. It ensures that its members’ discarded end-of-life photovoltaic modules are collected and recycled in a sustainable and cost-effective way. Free of charge for module owners, the fully operational service is open to anyone who would like to dispose of photovoltaic modules in Europe.   

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