As of 1 July 2019 e-waste, which includes solar panels, can no longer be sent to landfill in Victoria. In response, local governments have been given funding and incentives to develop sustainable solutions to address this growing waste stream.
This is the first state in Australia to ban the landfilling of e-waste. Queensland will introduce a waste levy of $75 per tonne as at 1 July 2019 but with no e-waste policy. NSW has a waste levy of $147 per tonne, also with no e-waste policy.
E-waste such as computers, TVs, phones, tablets, solar panels and other electrical appliances are amongst the fastest growing waste stream in Australia. Solar panels have been identified as a particularly rapidly growing and problematic waste item.
A recent ABC 7.30 report focusing on sub-standard solar panel installations in Australia identified that of the 1.2% of rooftop solar installations that the Clean Energy Regulator has inspected, 1 in 6 installations were ‘substandard’, and approximately 1 in 30 were ‘unsafe’. Based on this sampling, the audit shows that there are potentially tens of thousands of ‘unsafe’ solar panel installations. Currently the majority of damaged or defunct solar panels are either being landfilled or stockpiled.
SolaCycle, a new startup aiming to recycle solar panels, was started by co-founders Julie Dimmick & Brad Greentree to address the impending tsunami of solar panel waste. Julie came across the issue first hand, as CEO of a solar farm based in Queensland in 2018. Very soon into her role Julie was faced with the challenge of finding a solution to solar panel waste in her own business. Realising that there were no solutions in place, and that this waste stream was only going to increase, Julie rapidly turned her attention to addressing the issue.
In its initial phase, to help provide a sustainable solution for used and damaged solar panel waste, SolaCycle is building networks and partnerships with solar panel installers and suppliers, Local Government and resource recovery stakeholders to collect and store waste panels whilst equipment is procured to recycle the panels and create new markets for recycled panel products such as aluminium, glass and silicon.
If you're a solar panel supplier, manufacturer, installer, or domestic household with solar panels, or local council involved in resource recovery we'd love to speak with you.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org today to discuss your solar panel recycling needs, now or upcoming.
Stats from Sustainability Victoria:
In September 2015, Sustainability Victoria (on behalf of the Victorian Government) conducted a Victorian-based e-waste market flow and technology trends analysis in preparation for Victoria’s forthcoming e-waste landfill ban;
A key finding in the analysis identified solar panels as the fastest growing e-waste stream estimated to be growing from around 550 tonnes in 2015, significantly increasing in 2023, and escalating to around 25,000 tonnes by 2035 in Victoria alone;
This projection nationally estimates more than 100,000 tonnes of solar panels will enter Australia’s waste stream by 2035.