Are Solar Panels Recyclable – Updated Guide

Solar panels have created a new wave of greener energy homes, offices, businesses and etc, however, solar looks great on paper, in practice, they come with their own lists of drawbacks like only being able to generate electricity when there is sun, or needing an expensive battery to store energy when there isn’t sun to make it genuinely self-sustaining.

Because let’s be real, selling electricity back to the grid and buying it back at a premium is a contradictive exercise that many come to realise after their solar has been installed, but that is for another topic completely.

If your old solar panels are on the way out, you probably want to know if they are recyclable or perhaps reusable. We know the first generation of solar panels to be brittle and more breakable, however as time has gone by and new technology has entered the space they have become more reliable and durable.

So what can you do with cracked or obsolete solar panels, as the saying goes, nothing last forever!

Are Solar Panels Recyclable?

The answer is yes, solar panels are recyclable. Glass, plastic, aluminum, silicon, and metal are some of the recyclable elements found in solar panels. And as more research and development money gets poured into this green initiative as they are one avenue for a future with renewable energy, they also have been thinking about how to adequately dispose of old with the new and reuse where they can limit emissions.

Though we are not quite there yet, there needs to be a lot of development for them to be a more sustainable and affordable option there is no denying that the demand has grown.

With more governments handing out rebates and funding solar power initiatives for homes we have seen increased production and so the question has arisen about the recyclability of old solar panels.

How To Recycle Solar Panels

The recycling process is broken down into four main steps, the short answer is yes, solar panels are indeed recyclable and the only thing you need to do is take them to a reputable E-waste center where they can process these types of solar panels.

  • Monocrystalline panels: They are high-efficiency silicon wafers and are known for their high performance and efficiency. They are also the most expensive used for applications where the highest efficiency is required.
  • Polycrystalline panels: They are multiple silicon crystals and are less efficient than monocrystalline but are also less expensive. They are typically for residential applications, such as home solar systems.
  • Thin-film solar cells: They contain a thin layer of semi-conductive material like copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) or cadmium telluride (CdTe). They are less efficient than the two above and more flexible. You can use them for many things.

Here’s how they break them down and make them recyclable:

  • 1. Collecting: The first step is to collect the solar panels. It can be done by either bringing them to a local recycling center or working with a solar panel recycler.
  • 2. Separating: After the solar panels are collected, the next thing is to separate them. It includes separating the different components, such as glass, copper, aluminum, and plastic.
  • 3. Sorting: The parts are sorted into categories and sent to the appropriate recycling centers.
  • 4. Recycling: The recycling stage are of two processes:
    • Chemical/thermal Recycling: This process involves separating the chemical elements of solar panels to extract the silicon.
    • Mechanical Recycling: It is a manual process of disassembling solar panels to collect their components for reuse. Then, the recyclers will use recycled materials to produce new ones or other products. Following these guides, you can ensure your old solar panels are well recycled.

Different Ways To Reuse Solar Panels

If you panels are still working and are just obsolete there are a few ways you can reuse solar panels to help people in need, students researching green energy as well as electrical enthusiasts who can turn these panels into something new.

  • Use to create a shade: One of the most popular ways to reuse solar panels is to repurpose them for other energy needs. For example, you can use an old solar panel to power a backyard shade, garage, or home. It is beneficial because it reduces the need for additional energy sources, such as electricity.
  • Water Heater: You can reuse them to supplement existing energy sources, such as a home’s water heater.
  • DIY Projects: You can reuse them for DIY projects, such as for creating solar-powered lights or other low-voltage electronics.
  • Build a Greenhouse: You can create greenhouses with old solar panels. Since solar panels are made of glass, and so are greenhouses, all you need to do is to combine the two and keep your plants warm throughout the cooler months.
  • Donate: If you don’t want to reuse your old solar panels, you can give them to a charity, give them to an enthusiast or post them online to sell them to the next person.


Solar panels are recyclable and reusable in many ways and can be recycled by bringing them to known E-waste centers in your area. However, the recycling process is complex and expensive and requires specific equipment. However, the reusability is limited, however, it can be beneficial for a DIY idea or can be donated to people or institutions to learn and reuse in other projects.


How durable are solar panels?

Solar panels are highly durable and can last for several decades with proper maintenance. Most solar panels have a lifespan of 25-30 years, during which they will continue to generate electricity at a high efficiency rate.

However, the exact lifespan of a solar panel can vary depending on factors such as the quality of the panel, the weather conditions it is exposed to, and the level of maintenance it receives. Proper installation, cleaning, and inspection can help extend the lifespan of solar panels and maximize their performance.

Is it right to discard old solar panels?

It is not right to discard an old solar panel. The components take a very long time to decay, which makes them harmful to the environment. So recycling your solar panels is the best option.

What are the potential risks associated with recycling and reusing solar panels?

There are a few potential risks attached to recycling and reusing solar panels. You may not fix or replace the panels when damaged. In addition, reusing the panels could increase your energy costs because they may no longer be able to produce as much electricity as new panels.