Blog from Jane Marsh: 10 Things to Know About Renewable Energy Recycling

When Russia invaded Ukraine, global gas prices skyrocketed. Individuals search for alternative fuel sources to meet their transportation and energy demands. Rising gas prices and the green revolution influence society’s renewable energy adoption.

The solar and wind power industries effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After photovoltaic (PV) panels and turbines reach their expiration dates, they create surface-level pollution problems. Environmentalists are challenging renewable energy pollution with efficient recycling programs.

The Heightened Demand for Renewables

The energy sector contributes to the largest quantity of greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly 84% of the global power supply comes from fossil fuels. Emissions from fossil fuel combustion directly pollute the atmosphere.

Government officials identify the ecological challenges surrounding conventional fuel sources. In America, the Biden-Harris Administration is making strides toward decarbonizing the energy grid. The administration plans to reduce emissions by building more solar and wind farms.

Ecologists warn government officials about the environmental repercussions of expanding renewable energy production. The low recyclability rates of renewable technologies adversely impact the global ecosystem. There are ten ways professionals are improving renewable recycling practices to minimize surface-level and atmospheric waste.

1. Recycling PV Panel Glass

Recycling professionals are practicing waste reduction by repurposing PV panel components. One of the most accessible materials to recycle is glass. Individuals may recycle glass indefinitely, influencing a circular economy.

2. Reusing Plastic Components for Heat

Another recyclable component of PV panels is plastic. Modern recycling systems use thermal processing to convert plastic waste into energy. Thermal processing minimizes landfill waste and society’s reliance on fossil fuels for power.

3. Using Broken Wafers for Module Manufacturing

Individuals should also understand the module recycling practices relating to PV panels. Waste management professionals can recover silicon from broken wafers to manufacture new modules. Recycling damaged wafers may significantly reduce electronic waste (e-waste).

Developed nations like America produce the highest quantities of e-waste. The U.S. disposes of 13.1 million tons of e-waste annually. When recycling professionals improve their practices, they can minimize the number of panels and turbines in landfills.

4. Turning Turbine Blades into Playgrounds

Engineers are still looking for effective turbine blade-recycling practices. While professionals focus on technological advancements, park architects take matters into their own hands. Architects in the Netherlands use old turbine blades to build children’s playgrounds.

5. Promoting a Circular Economy with Silicon

Researchers in Germany discovered a silicon recycling technique using silicon from PV panels. The process is universal and recycles materials from different types of solar panels. Keeping used silicon in the manufacturing sector minimizes production and mining pollution.

6. Abiding by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Governments worldwide are targeting cadmium and lead pollution from PV panels with effective regulations. The contaminants can leak into the environment at landfills and adversely impact the environment and human health. Government officials developed the RCRA to reduce pollution and promote third-party recycling services.

7. Five States Have Independent Recycling Policies

Only California, Hawaii, New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington have independent renewable recycling policies. Regions like North Carolina solely regulate panel and turbine waste and neglect battery-related pollution. Recycling professionals must improve all components’ reclamation practices to protect the global ecosystem.

8. Recycling Solar Batteries

Researchers discovered sustainable methods of recycling lithium-ion batteries in solar panels and wind turbines. Professionals freeze used batteries at about -321°F to minimize combustion risks. Then, the components go through a furnace or chemical processing system, which recovers lithium for new batteries.

9. Using Old Panels as Canvases

Some countries lack the resources and education necessary for renewable device recycling. Artists are independently repurposing PV panels by converting them into canvases. Berlin-based artists are using panel art to raise ecological awareness.

10. Converting Turbine Blades into Bike Racks

Other regions are using renewable device components for structural purposes. Engineers in Denmark developed bike shelters from used turbine blades. The project promotes sustainable transportation practices and reduces landfill pollution.

Are Recycling Advancements Enough to Reduce Waste?

Minimizing surface-level and atmospheric pollution is essential to enhancing global sustainability. While improving renewable recycling programs helps free landfill space, environmental engineers may have to work harder. Designers can eliminate renewable waste by developing 100% recyclable wind turbines and solar panels.

About the author: Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co

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