If the solar industry doesn’t take proactive steps to develop and support a federal law on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), they will most likely be at the mercy of a patchwork of different laws enacted at the state and local levels.
The Resource Conservation and Recycling Act (RCRA) is very outdated. Most states interpret RCRA differently, and some have been developing recycling programs that are far more aggressive than the federal law. In fact, this is occurring with electronics. Since there is no federal law in place, more than 15 states have passed different electronic waste (e-waste) recycling laws.
Local governments are responsible for waste generated in their communities. Those municipalities that are strapped for cash and are desperate to divert the large quantities of hazardous e-waste from their landfills have turned to the cheapest recycling options. Without some type of federal legislation on product takeback and responsible recycling, how can we be sure that solar is not going to go down the same dirty path as e-waste?
Organizations and individuals who want to ensure that companies are responsible for the environmental impacts of their products are left with no option but to work towards changing their local and state laws.
Hopefully, with the support of companies that understand the importance of protecting people and the environment, a federal law will be passed so that the industry doesn’t have to abide by different laws in every state.