Waste specialist to launch solar panel recycling service

16 August 2023 by CSG

A leading waste management company is aiming to stop the potential mountain of discarded solar panels going to landfill by launching a specialist service that will recycle 96% of every unit.

CSG Recovery, which specialises in taking products made from mixed materials and breaking them down into recyclable components, is planning to launch a new solar panel recycling service at its Stanley Street site in Blackburn in the coming months.

Greg Smith, Technical Manager at CSG Recovery, said with millions of first-generation photovoltaic (PV) solar panels coming to the end of their useful life, there is an urgent need for more recycling facilities so they do not end up in landfill.

“Solar panels have a shelf life of around 25 years so we are starting to see those originally installed around the year 2000 coming to the end of their cycle,” said Greg.

“There are not many companies providing a recycling service but it is a waste stream that is coming and there will be a lot of solar panels needing to be replaced, particularly those from large solar farms.”

About 13,000 PV panels are fitted in the UK every month and the International Renewable Energy Agency has warned if growth trends continue, the amount of scrap solar panels could be significant.

It estimates that by 2030, there could be four million tonnes of discarded solar panels, which could grow to more than 200 million tonnes globally by 2050.

“We believe we can recycle around 96% of each panel because the aluminium frame can be stripped, broken down and reformed into new aluminium, which could be re-used for new solar panels,” said Greg.

“The silicon glass sheet can be smashed or shredded and re-used, possibly for new solar panels again.

“The panel itself contains precious metals including silver and copper. We have expertise in using specialist technologies to extract these materials having worked in the photographic industry for many years, where we extract silver from film.”

The most difficult material to recycle in solar panels is the film coating on the panel, which contains plastic.

“If we get the process right there is no reason why solar panels need to end up in landfill,” he added. “We are looking to set up the process in Blackburn very quickly.”

Last year, CSG Recovery demonstrated its environmental credentials when its Blackburn facility became a zero waste to landfill site, just three years after acquiring the facility.

The company, part of the CSG Group, specialises in the processing and recovery of complex or hazardous waste – including aerosols, oily rag by-products from industrial customers and clinical and

photographic waste – from businesses operating in a range of sectors including healthcare.

With facilities also in Prescot and Cadishead, it is renowned for its work in silver recovery projects, collecting photographic solutions to extract the silver content through a chemical process – also used for X-rays and dental images – with the silver bars then being recycled back into the market.

It also collects waste containing precious metals as part of a Trans-Frontier Shipment operation, with the materials transported to Europe for recovery via extracting.