Multi-levels of photovoltaic waste management: a holistic framework

Sajjad Mahmoudi, Nazmul Huda*, Masud Behnia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

With the unprecedented global growth of Photovoltaic (PV) panels installation at the annual growth rate of 25–30%, their appropriate End-of-Life (EoL) management gets into focus. The major gap is currently a strategic pathway that facilitates internationally closed-loop supply chain (CLSC) leading to a circular economy from the management point of views. This paper introduces a universal framework for sustainable management of about 5000 GW PV products by 2050 and illuminates the different boundaries and elements that influence the circular economy. There is a minimum of 24 types of substances embedded in PV waste flow which are classified into 6 categories. The research findings estimate 60–80 million tons (MT) of PV waste by 2050 which entails proactive strategy for EoL treatment. Latest update of WEEE Directive in 2019 enforces 85% recovery and 80% preparation for recycling of PV panels. If an environmentally friendly treatment pathway could be achieved and the recovery rate and purity level meet the market demand, there is strong potential for a circular economy, but it needs proper marginalization at the management levels. This study indicated that the PV panels’ sustainability should be broken down into three principal levels comprising product and component (Macroscopic), material (Mesoscopic), substances (Microscopic). In each level, the associated parties were introduced, and critical elements were discussed. The parties at the macroscopic level mostly consider the projection of the waste, awareness, and marketing of the recovered materials. While the environmental impacts, treatment pathway and its standard are covered by the associated parties at the mesoscopic level. The micro-management more concerns the monitoring of the purity level and transparent movement of the recovered materials and substances into the new industry and new market and highlights further consideration on the regulation at the international and national levels in this case.
Original languageEnglish
Article number126252
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume294
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • PV waste Management
  • End-of-life PV module
  • Sustainability
  • Circular economy
  • Secondary materials market
  • Closed-loop supply chain

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