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  • Writer's pictureGreen Clean Solar

What a Waste! How Can Solar CEOs Start Implementing Recycling & Refurbishing Measures?

Only about 10% of panels get recycled in the U.S. However, there will be an estimated $2 billion worth of materials to recover by 2050.

Historically renewable energy projects stand on their own as a sustainable victory. That’s a great thing, we’ve come a long way from the days where mass adoption was just a dream. But as more renewable energy projects emerge, so too does our responsibility in the industry to develop a path to zero or minimal waste.

This is true for all renewable energy, but especially for the solar industry as we inch closer to the efficiency revolution where more replacements and new projects create a substantial amount of waste. It’s time to start thinking about how our businesses will stay resilient in an era of zero waste. How can we leverage our waste issues and turn them into opportunities? How can every solar CEO take notes from heavy hitters like General Motors who turned their trash into $1 Billion?

Solar Business Resiliency

It’s time we sat down and start discussing waste opportunities to hedge our bets for better business and cleaner sites. The hurdle for many solar project managers is that waste has historically been a time-consuming annoyance - an afterthought, something to just get rid of. And in all fairness, it really should be this easy. That’s why Green Clean Solar exists - to make clean-up sites and reduce waste in one full swoop.

Since the ideal system for handling both solar site waste and solar PV waste - one must be created. A turnkey outsourced system that handles the hassle for you.

For Solar Industry CEOs, Energy Consultants, Solar Installation Companies, and anyone dealing with solar project waste, help is on the way. It may have been a long time coming but implementing tailored recycling and refurbishing measures is something that can be accomplished. Here’s what needs to be done, whether you handle it in-house or partner with an expert in solar waste.

What is solar waste?

Solar waste is everything on the job site that by default gets sent to the landfill. The goal is to have as much waste stay out of landfills. Handling of any waste, namely toxic chemicals will sit and leach into our ground and air.

Many journalists do a great job covering solar panel recycling issues, but our collective work in the solar industry tells us there’s much more to solar site waste. There are giant crates, cardboard, and tons of shrink wrap left thrown on sites, waiting for a cleanup crew. Solar panel waste is an emerging issue but solar waste on a site, as a whole is something we’ve come up against that didn’t have a turnkey solution. We had to make our own turnkey solution and strategy for handling waste. Now, we’re excited to use our solar waste expertise to clean up sites across the country.

Solar site waste materials include:

  • Wood crates

  • Cardboard

  • Paper

  • Metals

  • Glass

  • Plastics

  • Solar panels: silicon solar cells, metal framing, precious metals, glass sheets, wires, Plexiglas.

To recover these items, here’s the order of operations Solar CEOs can begin implementing:

#1 - Reuse old solar panels and materials where possible

Currently, reusing old panels will save more than recycling them. Why does this matter? Instead of hiring a waste hauling company that will either take it to a landfill they may or may not own, your firm can explore reuse options for panels, cardboard, metals as their supply chain. In most waste reduction models, after reducing the materials, reusing the materials is a strategic effort supported by intentional supply chain ordering - make sure the materials that come on-site are materials your company can effectively reuse. See what’s on the market, make wise purchasing decisions. In the case of solar panels, you can investigate innovative reusable packaging. If panels are unable to be reused in-house, consider refurbishing.

#2 - Refurbish solar panels

When decommissioning solar panels that are broken, damaged, or replacing an older model, refurbishing offers a way to give panels a new life, keeping them out of the waste stream. They become more affordable for community solar projects. The market for after-market panels and inverters is growing; some of the benefits include:

  • Making affordable panels to reach more communities

  • Better for the environment than recycling

  • Keeps in-use rare and expensive elements

  • An opportunity to make a profit from old panels

The concept of refurbishing can also be considered across your company’s material.

#3 - Recycle solar materials

The last resort for the precious materials retained in a panel is “recycling.” When we use the word recycling, we’re talking about the deconstruction of a solar panel into its component materials and then put on the secondary market.

While recycling is a goal, albeit one of the final solutions for solar panels, recycling is where the magic happens for all other solar site waste. Most, if not all, materials found strewn on a solar site have a place in the after-market. Aluminum, glass, wood, cardboard, and other materials are highly recyclable. We clean up all materials on our sites, and everywhere we can, we send those materials to the aftermarket rather than the landfill.

#4 Promote your efforts to attract new clients

Environmental marketing advantage. Your customers’ customers care about sustainability. Consumers respond to truth and transparency in their products' sustainability impacts and vision. People also want the companies they work for and the brands they buy from to do more and step up their sustainable efforts. Doing more than the basic waste to landfill, your waste efforts will add value to your company; your customer will be thrilled with the unexpected value beyond their solar installation. Providing this new sustainability gives an environmental marketing layer and competitive advantage most installers don’t currently have.

Creating new opportunities for solar waste

There are currently no laws that require solar sites to recycle broken panels and excessive packaging necessary for panel transport. But legislation is inevitable. What we will likely see first is the rapid expansion of Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) reporting now that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has a task force. Since most large-scale projects require investment funds, this is a huge driver for cleaning up our act.

How Green Clean Solar helps solar sites tackle waste - the right way!

Green Clean Solar is your one-stop for waste and solar site cleanup. Not only will we remove the materials on your site, we will do the dirty work and pick it up. We have over ten years of experience on large-scale solar jobs, and we’ve narrowed our methods down to a science. We leave your site looking pristine and ready for commissioning. We haul your materials to the appropriate locations for reuse, refurbishing, recycling, and only when one of these solutions won’t work will we send anything to the landfill. Our priority is your clean site and satisfaction.

Don’t waste time! We’ll pick up all materials and leave your job site and the planet pristine.

Contact us at 770-229-7168, or


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