PV producers in Europe face significant changes to the way they handle waste solar modules after an EU-wide change of disposal rules came into effect last week.

From 14 February, the European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), governing the disposal of waste electrical equipment, including PV panels, must be applied as national law by every EU member state.

The full implementation of WEEE rules followed an 18-month implementation period from a 2012 WEEE directive revision to include PV panels.

WEEE regulates how electronic equipment is handled at the end of its life. According to Jan Clyncke, managing director of PV take-back and recycling firm, PV Cycle: “The recast WEEE Directive has simply created a mandatory framework for every PV actor putting PV modules on an EU market for the very first time.”

Solar panels typically have a life span of 15-30 years, but can need replacing beforehand.

“Under WEEE, PV companies will not only have to ensure the collection and recycling of their discarded end-of-life products but are required to also guarantee the financial future of PV waste management,” said Clyncke. “Making sure that those in the PV value-chain affected by WEEE could prepare in advance has been our main focus for the last months”

The UK and Bulgaria were the first to enshrine the European directive WEEE regulation into national law before the deadline.

So far, no other EU member state has implemented their national version of the European directive. Although some key PV markets like Germany, Italy, France and Spain have not yet incorporated it into their national laws, WEEE will remain relevant to the PV sector in 2014 and beyond, PV Cycle said.