Trina, Solar Frontier among group calling out PV waste ‘free-riders’

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Non-compliance with EU directives for PV waste materials could undermine customer confidence in the sector, a statement by leading solar companies and a waste management organisation has warned.

According to specialist waste management scheme PV Cycle, as much as 40% of the industry is guilty of “free-riding” over the issue. The European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) was introduced in February 2014, but according to PV Cycle commitments to “sustainable life cycle management” were upheld to higher standards during the five years between 2007 and 2012, when the industry operated its own voluntary initiatives to take back and recycle modules.

A number of leading solar companies co-signed the PV Cycle statement released on Thursday. They constitute a mix of module manufacturers, vertically integrated manufacturer/developers and pure-play developers, with aleo Solar, Jinko Solar, Solar Frontier, Trina Solar, SunPower and Conergy all putting their names to the document.

PV Cycle, which operates a take back and recycling scheme of its own, said that if non-compliance was high, it would damage the reputation of the industry as a whole and it would mean compliant companies would suffer in terms of bankability as well as those that failed or refused to do so, by association.

According to PV Cycle and the loose consortium of solar companies alongside it, compliance efforts are falling well below the required standard, in particular a failure among some companies to meet the EU’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) rules, which should be guiding the 28 member states’ commitment to WEEE obligations. The statement described those companies, and others that are allegedly using branding from WEEE compliant programmes, when in fact they are not associated with them.

PV Cycle admitted the 40% figure for industry non-compliance was only an estimate, but said negligence and misinformation were among the transgressions non-compliant companies were guilty of. PV Cycle has been active in this area since the voluntary agreement days of 2007 and provides recycling and consultation services in Europe.

Japan recently also declared intent to implement rules for PV waste management, expecting to be dealing with around 30,000 tonnes of PV waste by 2030.

You can read more about PV Cycle's findings in their latest blog for PV Tech.

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