• Why in News- There has in the last few years been a concerted push from policymakers in India to transition to a circular economy and to, among other things, enable effective waste management. But waste management in the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector still lacks clear directives. 

What is PV waste? 

  • Globally, India has the world’s fourth highest solar PV deployment. 
  • The installed solar capacity was nearly 62GW in November 2022. 
  • This augurs a colossal amount of solar PV waste.
  • According to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, India could generate 50,000-­3,25,000 tonnes of PV waste by 2030 and more than four million tonnes by 2050. 
  • India’s solar PV installations are dominated by crystalline silicon (c­Si) technology. A typical PV panel is made of c­Si modules (93%) and cadmium telluride thin ­film modules (7%). 

Is this waste recovered or recycled? 

  • Silicon and silver can be extracted by burning the module in cement furnaces.
  • According to a 2021 report, approximately 50% of the total materials can be recovered. 
  • India’s challenge is the growing informal handling of PV waste. Only about 20% of the waste is recovered in general; the rest is treated informally. 
  • As a result, the waste often accumulates at landfills, which pollute the surroundings. 
  • Incinerating the encapsulant also releases sulphur dioxide, 

hydrogen fluoride, and hydrogen cyanide into the atmosphere. 

What are the gaps? 

  • First, simply clubbing PV waste with other e­ waste could lead to confusion. Instead, India should formulate and implement provisions specific to PV waste treatment within the ambit of the e ­waste guidelines. 
  • And a Central insurance or a regulatory body should be set up to protect against financial losses incurred in waste collection and treatment. 
  • Second, the waste generated from PV modules and their components is classified as hazardous waste’ in India. 
  • To further drive home this label, pan­ India sensitisation drives and awareness programmes on PV waste management will be beneficial. 
  • Third, considering that India’s local solar PV ­panel manufacturing is limited, we need to pay more attention to domestic R&D efforts.
  • In fact, India is expected to become one of the top five leading photovoltaic waste producers worldwide by 2050. Now is the right time for it to 

install clear policy directives to control this waste problem.