Regulations on Photovoltaic Module Disposal

and Recycling

Vasilis Fthenakis, BNL

Summary

Environmental regulations can have a significant impact on product use, disposal, and recycling.  This report summarizes the basic aspects of current federal, state and international regulations which apply to end-of-life photovoltaic (PV) modules and PV manufacturing scrap destined for disposal or recycling.  It also discusses proposed regulations for electronics that may set the ground of what is to be expected in this area in the near future.  In the United States, several states have started programs to support the recycling of electronic equipment, and materials destined for recycling often are excepted from solid waste regulations during the collection, transfer, storage and processing stages.  California regulations are described separately because they are different from those of most other states.

International agreements on the movement of waste between different countries may pose barriers to cross-border shipments.  Currently waste moves freely among country members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and between the United Sates and the four countries with which the US has bilateral agreements.  However, it is expected, that the United States will adopt the rules of the Basel Convention (an agreement which currently applies to 128 countries but not the United States) and that the Convection's waste classification system will influence the current OECD waste-handling system.  Some countries adopting the Basel Convention consider end-of-life electronics to be hazardous waste, whereas the OECD countries consider them to be non-hazardous.

Also, waste management regulations potentially affecting electronics in Germany and Japan are mentioned in this report.

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Last Modified: June 18, 2008
Please forward all questions about this site to: Vasilis Fthenakis