Solar industry given deadline to address waste issue

22 June 2021

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has given the solar industry a hard deadline to ‘step up’ and address the mounting issue of solar panel waste or face regulation after tabling the latest Product Stewardship list in Parliament today.

Following her speech in the National Press Club last week signalling waste from solar systems as a looming environmental disaster, the Minister has told the industry it needs a finalised industry-led nationwide scheme designed by June 2022.

Previous submissions from sections of the industry to set up a scheme have lacked a cohesive, coordinated and sustainable approach that looked beyond initial support from the Government.

“The uptake of millions of solar panels across the country from roof tops to solar farms has been vital from an emissions perspective but the explosion of retailers and importers in the area, and the lack of an industry wide approach to collection and recycling, means that it also looms as a landfill nightmare,” Minister Ley said in her address to the National Press Club.

“Solar panels have languished on the Government’s priority list for six years now. It is time for the industry to step up and address the issue of waste either stockpiling or ending up in landfill, and today I have given them a deadline of mid-2022 to do that,” Minister Ley said today.

In 2018 Australians generated 2,700 tonnes of photovoltaic (PV) waste as the earliest panels reached their end of life. By 2050 it is expected that Australians will generate 1,532,000 tonnes of PV waste.

“There is significant risk of panel components, including hazardous materials, ending up in landfill where they can cause ongoing environmental impacts while the benefit of the valuable materials they contain is lost,” Minister Ley added.

Minister Ley said clothing textile waste and problematic and unnecessary single use plastics identified in the National Plastics Plan have also been added to the Minister’s Priority List, while industry action has resulted in batteries and plastic microbeads being removed.

The new list now includes recommended actions and timeframes for each listed product in accordance with the requirements of the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020.

The latest list can be accessed here: www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste/product-stewardship/ministers-priority-list/2021-22