In news– A report by National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI) has found that India could generate over 34,600 tonnes of cumulative solar waste in India by 2030.
What is solar waste?
- It is the electronic waste (e-waste) generated by discarded solar panels and Photo-voltaic (PV) devices.
- Photovoltaic (PV) devices contain semiconducting materials that convert sunlight into electrical energy.
- A single PV device is known as a cell, and these cells are connected together in chains to form larger units known as modules or panels.
- Although up to 90% of the components are recyclable, many PV modules contain heavy metals such as cadmium, copper, lead, antimony or selenium, and when they are taken out of service or broken, they may be classified as hazardous waste.
- India does not have a solar waste management policy, but the waste can increase by at least four-five-fold by the next decade.
- Solar panels have a life of 20-25 years, and it is likely that India will be faced with solar waste problems by the end of this decade.
- While photovoltaics generate only about 3 percent of global electricity, they consume 40 percent of the world’s tellurium, 15 percent of the world’s silver, a substantial chunk of semiconductor-grade quartz and lesser amounts of indium, zinc, tin and gallium.
- The two most popular module technologies in India are crystallised silicon (C-Si) and thin-film (mainly cadmium telluride, CdTe), with 93 and 7 per cent market shares respectively.
- The market value of raw materials recovered from solar panels could reach $450 million by 2030.
- The report has suggested that India should focus its attention on drafting comprehensive rules to deal with solar waste and also suggested a ban on landfills.
Solar waste management by other countries-
- In Europe, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive of the EU imposes responsibility for the disposal of waste on the manufacturers or distributors who introduce or install such equipment for the first time.
- The UK also has an industry-managed “take-back and recycling scheme”, where all PV producers will need to register and submit data related to products used for the residential solar market (B2C) and non-residential market.
- While there are no federal statutes or regulations in the United States that talk about recycling, there are some states who have proactively defined policies to address end-of-life PV module management.
- The federal government in Australia has acknowledged the concern and announced a $2 million grant as part of the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to develop and implement an industry-led product stewardship scheme for PV systems.