In recent years, Australia has seen a sharp increase in solar installation. In fact, 12% of Australia’s electricity came from solar in 2021, the highest among the major countries worldwide. How is the country preparing for future solar waste challenges? In this post, we will cover PV waste regulations in Australia.
Are there any PV-specific waste regulations in Australia?
While there is currently no nationwide regulation on PV waste in Australia, efforts are underway to develop a national approach to manage end-of-life PV modules.
- In 2011, the Product Stewardship Act was enacted in Australia; however, the Act did not apply to PV systems. In 2016, PV systems were added to the Federal Environment Minister’s Product Stewardship Priority List.
- The Minister’s Priority List 2021-22 recommends: (1) finalizing an industry-agreed nationwide scheme design for PV systems by June 2022 and (2) the nationwide scheme to be operational by June 2023 and include an approach to deal with legacy panels.
- In November 2021, the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) appointed the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence to lead the co-design process for developing an industry-led national product stewardship scheme for PV systems.
In Australia, different states and territories have their own waste management rules. Some states, such as South Australia and Victoria, ban landfilling of e-waste.
- In 2012, South Australia became the first Australian state to ban landfill of e-waste. However, PV modules are not defined as e-waste, and the landfill ban does not apply to waste PV modules.
- Victoria has banned landfilling of e-waste since July 1, 2019. The landfilling ban also applies to PV modules, which are classified as e-waste in Victoria. As of July 2022, Victoria is the only state that regulates solar PV disposal.
- Western Australia aims to introduce a ban on e-waste disposal to landfill by 202. In January 2023, the state government opened a public consultation period to gather feedback on implementation approaches for the e-waste landfill ban. While PV modules are not included in the initial phase of the state’s ban, Western Australia expects to add them in the future phase of the landfilling ban.
Are there any initiatives to address PV waste issues?
Various initiatives have been launched in Australia to address solar PV waste challenges.
- In 2021, the New South Wales Government launched the Circular Solar grants program to divert waste PV modules and battery systems from landfills. Following Phase 1 (trial phase) in 2021, Phase 2 of the grant program was conducted in 2022.
- Breakthrough Victoria, an independent company that manages the Victorian Government’s $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria Fund, in September 2022, launched a new challenge program, Breakthrough Victoria Challenge . With the first theme of the challenge program being solar PV recycling, Breakthrough Victoria announced it would invest up to $10 million to tackle the issue of solar PV waste in Victoria.
Although Australia may not become the world’s top generator of solar PV waste, as one of the fastest-growing solar energy markets, the country will likely launch more solar PV-specific initiatives. It is worth following whether Australia will lead the Asia-Pacific region by introducing a nationwide PV-specific waste regulation in the near future. To learn how other countries and states are responding to solar waste issues, check out our posts.
 Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW), “Renewables.” https://www.energy.gov.au/data/renewables (accessed Feb. 13, 2023).
 Ember, “Global Electricity Review 2022,” Mar. 2022. Accessed: Feb. 13, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://ember-climate.org/app/uploads/2022/03/Report-GER22.pdf
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 Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA), State Government of Victoria, “E-waste in Victoria”, Accessed: Feb. 13, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/sustainability/e-waste-in-victoria
 Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), “About e-waste.” https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/find-a-topic/manage-e-waste/about-ewaste (accessed Feb. 13, 2023).
 K. Komoto et al., “Status of PV Module Recycling in Selected IEA PVPS Task12 Countries 2022.” Accessed: Feb. 08, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://iea-pvps.org/key-topics/status-of-pv-module-recycling-in-selected-iea-pvps-task12-countries/
 Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Government of Western Australia, “Ban on e-waste disposal to landfill in Western Australia.” https://consult.dwer.wa.gov.au/waste-policy/ban-on-e-waste-disposal-to-landfill-in-western-aus/ (accessed Feb. 14, 2023).
 Government of Western Australia, “Consultation on e-waste ban to landfill begins.” https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2023/01/Consultation-on-e-waste-ban-to-landfill-begins.aspx (accessed Feb. 14, 2023).
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 Breakthrough Victoria, “Who we are.” https://breakthroughvictoria.com/who-we-are/ (accessed Feb. 13, 2023).
 Breakthrough Victoria, “Breakthrough Victoria Challenge Launch: Media Release.” https://breakthroughvictoria.com/stories/breakthrough-victoria-challenge-launch-media-release/ (accessed Feb. 13, 2023).