Solar Panels can be recycled

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The silicon cells can be re-cycled as raw material for new solar cells

For silicon PV modules, the recycling process consists of multiple steps.

ReMedia (Milano) is an Italian consortium that handles Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) as well as end-of-life batteries and accumulators.

How does it work?

  1. After removing the (mostly) aluminium frames and the junction boxes with cables, the rest of the module – including glass, backsheet and cells – are then crushed in a hammer mill into small pieces (<5mm).
  2. After this, the fractions are separated and sorted according to material type, which is done by processing them though a leach drum and a vibrating screen, at the latter the glass is separated from the EVA pieces.
  3. The EVA pieces are collected in another conveyor while the glass falls through the screen to a chute where it is further handled to rinsing. Having been cleaned, the glass is deposited into recycling containers and rinse waters are pumped to a precipitation system for metal recovery.
  4. The metal parts are precipitated in a three-stage process by increasing pH using sodium hydroxide. Once the solid compounds have settled and been process into a metal rich filter cake it is basically ready to be processed into semiconductor grade raw material.

Up to 90% of a module’s glass and 95% of the semiconductor material can be recovered

Up to 90% of a module’s glass and 95% of the semiconductor material can be recovered during this process. Waste of the aluminium frames for example can be recycled and processed into usable raw material for furniture, cell phones or again solar panel frames. The silicon cells can be re-cycled as raw material for new solar cells.

  1. As for non-silicon PV modules, such as thin-film modules, these basically need to undergo chemical treatment in order to separate the various semiconductor materials, which in best case allows up to 95% recovery of the material parts.



ReMedia directly represents the firms that support the legal duties related to WEEE, batteries, and accumulators and it gives form to the environmental commitment of over 1000 members – firms that produce consumer electronic equipment. ReMedia has created a system that guarantees the recycling of photovoltaic plants at the end of its operating life by developing and coordinating its collection, transport, recovery, and recycling.


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