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Solar Panels

Solar panels provide huge benefits when it comes to energy production and resource conservation. Once they no longer work though, they present a difficult disposal challenge. As the first generation of solar panels begins to give out, we're starting to see more panels without a home.

Can we recycle old solar panels?

Photovoltaic (PV) modules, or solar panels, contain a significant amount of recyclable components, but unfortunately they’re difficult to process. In addition to strong adhesives and fragile parts, the panels contain hazardous materials which classify many of them as hazardous waste at their end of life.

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is working to designate solar panels as universal waste, which would ease the management requirements for spent panels.  In the meantime, most solar panels must be treated as hazardous waste. With their large size and high disposal costs, this becomes challenging for household hazardous waste collection centers.

The County is currently exploring best management options for solar panels generated locally. If you’d like to be notified of new options, please send us an e-mail to request being added to our notification list.

Manufacturer Take-Back

If you need to get rid of solar panels, start by first contacting the manufacturer. Some companies, such as First Solar, offer take-back programs. Manufacturers are best equipped to disassemble the products and make use of the still usable components.

A number of European countries, as well as the state of Washington, have legislated programs that require manufacturers to provide take-back services. These Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs are growing in popularity for many types of products, including paint, electronics, batteries, and mattresses.

Donation

If your unwanted solar panels are still functional, try donating them to a non-profit such as Habitat for Humanity or Good Sun.

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