Yes, solar panels can be recycled. The Solar Energy Industries Association has additional information on recycling. You can also find information on vendors, equipment donations, equipment resale, and solar recycling facts at SolarRecycle.org.
We expect the options for panel recycling to increase in the coming years, but there will be challenges ahead. The solar industry is young and market for solar recycling is small. The cost to recycle components and materials from those panels is still high. Additionally, as the industry is getting better at using less expensive materials in solar production. While this has the benefit of lower the cost of solar panels. It also lowers the financial benefit of recycling them.
Governments and the solar industry will need to work together to ensure that solar panel materials are put back into the manufacturing stream. There are good examples of this happening in other more well-established industries. For example, 99% of car batteries are recycled. New automotive batteries are made primarily from recycled materials.
Solar panels can work for 25 years or more. The best way to help with the recycling challenge is to keep your system installed, operating, and making you money for as long as possible.
It’s also important to keep the size of the recycling and waste challenge in context. By some estimates, projections for solar panel waste are a tiny fraction when compared to existing waste sources for coal ash, plastic waste, or e-waste (cell phones, laptops, etc.).