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The United States is among the countries facing a looming solar waste problem. While PV-specific regulations do not exist on the U.S. federal level, the solar PV industry has been implementing various initiatives and standards to tackle PV waste challenges. In this post, we will look at how the solar industry is addressing solar waste concerns.

How is the industry responding to the PV waste challenges?

  • The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a U.S. national trade association for the solar and solar + storage industries, launched the SEIA National PV Recycling Program in 2016, a member-based network of PV recycling and refurbishment providers offering proper end-of-life management solutions (e.g., repair, refurbishment, resale and recycling) for PV modules, inverters and other solar equipment[1][2]. Through this program, SEIA members have access to SEIA-vetted recyclers and other end-of-life management providers, as well as benefits such as exclusive pricing and a single contact point for recyclers[3].
  • NSF/ANSI 457-2019: Sustainability Leadership Standard for Photovoltaic Modules and Photovoltaic Inverters[4] is an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) approved standard developed by NSF (formerly NSF International), an independent, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization that develops public health standards[5]. Developed in 2017, the standard provides a framework and a series of performance objectives for PV manufacturers to achieve sustainable design and manufacturing of PV modules and PV inverters[4]. PV inverters were not initially included but were later added to the 2019 edition[6].
  • In 2021, Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), a non-profit organization and the housing body for the R2 Standard—a global standard for responsible repairing, reusing and recycling used electronics—began a process of adding PV modules to the R2 Standard[7][8].
  • In 2019, Recycle PV Solar, a U.S. company offering a nationwide PV recycling program, and PV CYCLE, a European non-profit association offering collective and tailor-made waste management and legal compliance services, announced an integrated partnership to provide nationwide solutions to sustainably manage decommissioned PV power plants as well as discarded PV modules in the U.S[9][10].
  • First Solar, a U.S. solar module manufacturer focusing on thin film Cadmium Telluride (CadTel) PV modules, has been operating an in-house high-value recycling program since 2005[11][12].

Unlike in Europe, where PV-specific waste regulations exist, in the U.S., market-led initiatives play crucial roles in facilitating sustainable end-of-life management of PV modules. To learn how other countries and states are responding to solar panel waste issues, check out our posts.


[1] Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), “About SEIA.” https://www.seia.org/about (accessed Feb. 03, 2023).

[2] Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), “SEIA National PV Recycling Program.” https://www.seia.org/initiatives/seia-national-pv-recycling-program (accessed Feb. 02, 2023).

[3] T. L. Curtis, H. Buchanan, G. Heath, L. Smith, and S. Shaw, “Solar Photovoltaic Module Recycling: A Survey of U.S. Policies and Initiatives,” 2021. Accessed: Feb. 03, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy21osti/74124.pdf

[4] American National Standards Institute (ANSI), “NSF/ANSI 457-2019 Sustainability Leadership Standard For Photovoltaic Modules.” https://webstore.ansi.org/standards/nsf/nsfansi4572019?source=blog&_ga=2.194909997.1898875442.1675696883-885958684.1675295553 (accessed Feb. 02, 2023).

[5] NSF, “About NSF.” https://www.nsf.org/about-nsf (accessed Feb. 07, 2023).

[6] American National Standards Institute (ANSI), “Solar PV Modules – Sustainability Leadership Objectives.” https://blog.ansi.org/2020/05/solar-pv-sustainability-leadership-ansi-457/#gref (accessed Feb. 02, 2023).

[7] SERI (Sustainable Electronics Recycling International), “ABOUT SERI AT SERI, WE ARE COMMITTED TO SERVE AS A CATALYST FOR CHANGE.” https://sustainableelectronics.org/about-story-and-mission/ (accessed Feb. 08, 2023).

[8] SERI (Sustainable Electronics Recycling International), “R2 Solar Update.” https://sustainableelectronics.org/r2-solar-update/ (accessed Jan. 24, 2023).

[9] PV CYCLE, “ABOUT US.” https://pvcycle.org/about-pv-cycle/ (accessed Feb. 08, 2023).

[10] PV CYCLE BELGIUM, “PV CYCLE and Recycle PV Solar Announce Integrated Partnership for Recycling in USA .” https://pvcycle.be/pv-cycle-and-recycle-pv-solar-announce-integrated-partnership-for-recycling-in-usa/ (accessed Feb. 02, 2023).

[11] First Solar, “About Us Overview.” https://www.firstsolar.com/en/About-Us/Overview (accessed Feb. 08, 2023).

[12] First Solar, “Solutions Recycling.” https://www.firstsolar.com/en/Solutions/Recycling (accessed Feb. 07, 2023).

Author: Saki Kobayashi / 小林 さき