Here’s what you need to know about disposing of and recycling solar panels, whether you’ve had your panels since before solar was cool and now they need to be upgraded, or you have damaged modules that you don’t know what do with.
The Recycling Process of PV Modules at a Glance:
Solar panels can be and are recyclable. On average, silicon-based PV modules are 76% glass, 10% plastic, 8% aluminum, 5% silicon and 1% metal. However, despite this, most of the time they are not recycled, especially in the United States. This is concerning because if recycling processes are not put in place, we can expect our landfills to have 60 million tons of solar panel waste by 2050. 
USA Government Regulations:
Currently there’s no national governing body in the United States regulating exactly what happens with old solar panels, and unfortunately, they often end up in the landfill instead of being recycled. This is counter to the intention of going green and utilizing clean and renewable energy.
There’s the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that commercial entities must comply with regarding the disposal of hazardous materials, but there’s no national regulation on the residential level as far as disposing of solar panels. Without any mandates or guidelines in place, people often don’t know what else they can do other than send their panels to the landfill.
While little has been done, even on the state level, if you live in California, the sunshine state had enacted SB 489 in 2015, that classified that solar panels must be managed/disposed of as hazardous waste. Also, in recent news, this year in 2018, California is looking to obtain authorization for its Universal Waste regulations from the EPA to include both federally regulated PV modules as well as state-regulated PV modules in its regulations, allowing an easier and cost-effective PV module waste determination procedures.
Recycling PV Modules in CA:
If you are a homeowner looking to dispose of a small quantity of waste, you can take your PV modules to a Household Hazardous Waste collection facility, which are located all across the state. You can find the city closest to you and learn more here. 
For most other states you will have to look into private groups that specialize in PV module disposal.
Private Recycling Groups in the USA:
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has been working to resolve the issue of PV disposal and ensure sustainable best practices are implemented for the future. Here’s a PV Waste 101 Fact Sheet that SEIA has put together on their plan for managing PV waste. SEIA has set up a national SEIA-Members Only SEIA National PV Recycling Program, however this program is suited for solar businesses, and not the individual homeowner looking to recycle their panels.
What Are Other Countries Doing?
In Europe, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive had included PV modules into their scope in 2012 and set mandatory regulations regarding the collection and recycling of PV panels in the European Union. WEEE requires that the manufacturers, rebranders, and importers of PV modules are responsible for recycling of the panels that they sell. 
 “The Opportunities of Solar Panel Recycling.” United Kingdom, 2017, www.greenmatch.co.uk/blog/2017/10/the-opportunities-of-solar-panel-recycling.
 “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Overview.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 9 July 2018, www.epa.gov/rcra/resource-conservation-and-recovery-act-rcra-overview.
 “Household Hazardous Waste.” Pharmaceutical Waste, www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/universalwaste/hhw.cfm.
 “Collection & Recycling.” Solar Waste / European WEEE Directive, www.solarwaste.eu/collection-and-recycling/.