Mandatory takeback and responsible recycling laws can be written to ensure that the environment and those who dismantle and recycle solar PV panels are protected during dismantling. Unfortunately, our history has proven that we don’t know how to handle electronic waste (e-waste), such as televisions and computers. We are much less prepared for the new solar panels that are coming out. That is why such laws are absolutely imperative.
Currently, there are no federal takeback and responsible recycling laws in the U.S. that govern e-waste.
Therefore, millions of informal workers (workers who are not affiliated with a company or government agency), including those in Ghana, Nigeria, India and China who are currently recycling high tech products are negatively and permanently damaging their health and the health of their families and their environment due to a lack of recycling laws in the U.S. and other developed countries. These workers are doing a service, but are not protected or compensated properly for their work.
The U.S.’ refusal to ratify the Basel Convention and the BAN amendment means that there is no legal enforcement of the hazardous waste we are dumping onto developing countries.
To make matters worse, some companies are dumping their products under the guise of reuse.
Another portion of e-waste is sent to prisons for dismantling, where inmates and guards are also exposed to the same toxic chemicals.
These types of actions, have proven to be a black-eye on the part of many electronics companies. If the same occurs in the solar industry – it will certainly damage the industry’s “green” branding.
According to a study in Science magazine in October 2009 regarding electronic waste, researchers stated that, “When you have different states having different policies, it’s very difficult to give manufacturers guidance regarding how to design their products or create take-back programs.”
Until the solar PV industry supports a mandatory and responsible recycling program at the federal level, we have to wonder where the solar panels that are currently being sold might end up.
If it is illegal to export end-of-life panels to developing nations or prisons for dismantling, there will be oversight to ensure that the waste doesn’t end up in the wrong places. SVTC is dedicated to making sure this type of legal oversight is established.
Organizations like SVTC are also committed to supporting solar companies that see the big picture – the need for them to be responsible stewards for the environment in a holistic way.