IEA-PVPS Task 12
PV Environmental Health And Safety

Study on the Development of a Take-Back and Recovery System for Photovoltaic Products

The “Study on the Development of a Take-Back and Recovery System for Photovoltaic Products” was finalised during spring 2008 and served as a starting point for the work of PV CYCLE. The study was carried out by Okopol, co-funded by EPIA and BSW and sponsored by BMU. It is available in both German and English at

The study deals with PV market and technologies analysis, waste forecasts, political and legal parameters, recycling processes and techniques, eco-balance aspects (environmental impact of the different recycling options), benchmarks of a voluntary recovery systems of PV modules and logistic costs for such a system.

PV CYCLE activities

In December 2008, the members of PV CYCLE signed a Declaration supported by the European Commission. It puts ahead a benchmark with the following targets: to collect a minimum of 65% of photovoltaic modules installed in Europe since 1990 and to recycle 85% of the collected waste and the promise to come up with an Environmental Agreement. 

The first collection and recycling activity organized fully by PV CYCLE took place in Chevetogne, Belgium, in 2009; 2000 modules were collected from the oldest Belgian PV generator and recycled in Germany. The results including LCA were presented at the last EU PVSEC in Hamburg in September 2009. (link to paper)

A study performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) on the potential mechanisms by which the voluntary take-back and recycling scheme will be financed was delivered in December 2009. Which financial mechanism will be put in place as well as how the scheme will be financed during the following years is now under discussion in a Working Group ‘Task Force Participation Contract’. To finance operations in 2010, members had agreed last year to pay 0.24€/kg on a percentage of the sales of 2008 in EU27 + EFTA countries.

PV CYCLE has identified a number of collection points in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal. In total, over 65 collection points exist up to date. Hellmann Worldwide Logistics has been appointed as the logistics service provider for Germany. The company will report on CO2 emissions of its transportation activities regarding end-of-life PV modules in Germany.

Since April 2010, over 40 new members (including associate members) have joined PV CYCLE. In total, PV CYCLE has 100 full members, representing more than 85% of the European market and 16 associate members.

Recycling workshop

A recycling workshop was organized by Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) during the 34th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC) in Philadelphia on June 11th 2009. The aim was to discuss future US activities in the field of PV module collection and recycling. The collection infrastructure that PV CYCLE is setting in Europe was presented and proposed as the way to follow in the US. All the presentations held at the workshop are available on the following website.

Study on a “cost optimisation model” for the collection and recycling of PV modules

A study has been developed by BNL, U.S., that defines a “cost optimisation model” for the collection and recycling of PV modules. For now, both Solar World’s and First Solar’s recycling schemes are included in the model, but it will be further expanded with more scenarios and processes. The results of this model have been presented by Jun-Ki Choi at the 1st International Recycling Conference in Berlin, Germany on January 26, 2010.

1st and 2nd International Conference on PV Module Recycling

Within the framework of Task 12; EPIA, PV CYCLE and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) hosted the 1st International Conference on PV Module Recycling on the 26 January 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The event presented the state-of-the-art PV module recycling and provided a platform for discussion between the PV industry and the most experienced players in recycling from other related sectors.

During the first session, an overview of all the recovery and recycling techniques for the different PV technologies (c-Si, CdTe, CIGS, thin film silicon) was given by the most experienced industry and knowledgeable research centres.

During the second session, industries involved in recycling processes from other sectors (e.g WEEE recycling, glass, lamps, etc.) shared experiences and synergies which could be applied to the PV module recycling technologies. A discussion on recycling costs and future plans for recycling in the EU took place during the last session of the conference.

The event attracted more than 200 participants. Presentations are available for EPIA and PV CYCLE members. In 2011, the 2nd edition of the conference will take place. Venue and exact date will be communicated through EPIA and PV CYCLE (and also through the Task 12 website).

Because of the succes of the first edition of this conference, EPIA and PV CYCLE are jointly organising the 2nd International Conference on PV Module Recycling. The conference will take place on the 25th of January in Madrid. You can find the preliminary announcement of the conference here.   

Recycling activities in Japan

In Japan, research on PV recycling is ongoing. NEDO has designated the research activities on PV recycling to the Kitakyushi Foundation for the Advancement of Industry, Science and Technology (FAIS).

The Kitakyushi FAIS is coordinating the work of the technical committee, in which representatives from the PV Industry (Showa Shell and Shinryo Corporation), from the academic world (University of Kitakyushu, Mizuho Information and Research Institute), from administration (the city of Kitakyushu) are involved. Also METI, JPEA, glass manufacturers and non-iron refinement companies, the building sector, installation companies are involved in the work.

This activity focus on establishing a low cost recycling technology by 2015 at which time a recycling infrastructure system will start on a local scale. Subsequently, it will be investigated how the system can be expanded to a national level.

Papers and publications

A number of papers related to PV Module Recycling have been published during 2008 and can be found in the Publications and Reports section.