Clean up your act
The BOSS Magazine|April 2021
RENEWABLE ENERGY IS GREAT, BUT RENEWABLE WASTE OIS A REAL PR BLEM. HERE’S WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT.
DAMIEN MARTIN

Renewable energy is a great way to power the future and pave the way for more sustainable living. But it’s not perfect. As renewable infrastructure reaches the end of its life cycle, the resultant waste can be damaging for the environment, sometimes as bad as or worse than fossil fuel pollution. Rather than scrap the entire idea, though, the industry can take steps to minimize this renewable waste to keep forging ahead. These are the big problems and potential solutions for renewable waste, courtesy of the EPA’s briefing paper “Renewable Energy Waste Streams: Preparing for the Future.”

Problem: Old solar panels

The sun has another good 4.5 billion years in it, so we don’t have to worry too much about building an energy system around harnessing its heat. Solar panels, on the other hand, don’t last quite so long. When they break, toxic chemicals such as lead and cadmium leak out, and the panels themselves are difficult to recycle. So they often go to landfills at the end of their life cycles. Given the rapid growth of the solar industry, that could result in millions of tons of renewable waste in the coming decades.

Solution: Innovate

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