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Solar panel recycling push in Japan

Asia – Japan’s solar panel waste will exceed 10 000 tons by the year 2020, according to the country’€™s environment ministry. With this in mind, it is working with a consortium of experts on the processing of this ever-growing material stream.

An estimated 800 000 tons of solar panel waste is expected to make its way on to the market each year between 2034 and 2040. The projected peak is equivalent to 40.5 million panels, meaning that the country will need to find a way to dispose of 110 000 solar panels as a daily average.

Since 2013, the Japanese government has been working with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and several private companies such as NPC Group on the recycling of panels – and with positive results, according to the latter.

NPC Group has developed ‘the hot knife method’ which is said to efficiently separate the cells of a panel from the glass in roughly 40 seconds: a panel is placed between two rollers, which move it along and hold it steady until it runs into a 1-metre-long, 1-centimetre-thick steel blade heated to 200’„ƒ, swiftly slicing the cell and glass apart.

To further boost solar panel recycling in Japan, NPC Group has started up PV Techno Cycle – a joint venture with industrial waste disposal company Hamada. The business partners hope to treat 50 000-100 000 panels within three years, with 80% to be recycled and the rest to be reused.

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