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Over 90% of solar panels are not recycled, head to landfills: report

These two forms of green energy appear to carry unintended consequences for the environment.

Published: May 5, 2023 2:13pm

Over 90% of solar panels are "thrown in the trash," according to a recent news report. 

The report by CBS News also found wind energy producers such as turbine are not to eco-friendly.

Solar, the fastest growing American energy source, last year accounted for half of the United States' new electricity-generating capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Biden administration has touted the panels as a solution to "environmental injustice."

But the panels, which have a lifespan of 25-30 years, go largely un-recycled, according to the CBS report.

Over 90% of them end up scrapped in a landfill after their expiration. At this rate, CBS projects, there will be enough expired solar panels in the next seven years to cover 3,000 football fields.

While companies such as We Recycle Solar have begun finding ways to reuse the used panels, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has described such efforts as a "pain" because of how the panels are built and the economics not always make sense.

That combined with used panels not generate as much electricity as other methods, "the money saved by buying them might not be worth it," MIT said.

CBS also conducted an interview in a deforested quarry in the woods in which used windmill blades – stretching hundreds of feet in length – are stored, pending attempts to recycle them. 

The blades, according to the report, are "built not to break," thus also making them difficult to recycle.

Julie Angulo, senior vice president for energy waste company Veolia, told the news network that "a lot of [windmill blades] end up in landfills." 

An estimated 47 million tons of blade waste will be produced each year by 2050, with much of the waste expected to be buried in the ground.

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