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Is solar and wind turbine waste this generation’s emerging “nuclear moment”?

Summarised by Centrist

Australia is on the brink of a solar panel waste crisis, expected to hit critical levels within the next two to three years, far earlier than previously projected for 2030. The surge in solar panel production, potentially increasing by five to ten times, could exhaust the world’s reserves of silver within two decades.

That’s according to a recent white paper led by Rong Deng from the University of NSW. While Victoria has banned solar panel disposal in landfills, the high cost of recycling, ranging from $10 AUD to $20 AUD per panel, acts as a disincentive. 

Current recycling practices involve stripping panels down to their basic components, with limited capabilities to recover valuable materials like silicon, silver, and copper effectively. Moreover, the complexity of solar panel design, described as a “fused, watertight, weatherproof sandwich,” makes for a difficult extraction process.

Deng’s paper proposes a 12-year industry roadmap. It includes developing advanced technologies for material extraction, establishing recycling centres in urban areas, and implementing a product stewardship scheme for photovoltaics. The latter, set to launch in 2025, aims to mandate recycling and hold manufacturers accountable for end-of-life panel disposal.

Read more over at The Guardian

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