Since 2008, Jan Clyncke has been the the Managing Director of PV Cycle, a pan-European organization for the treatment and recycling of photovoltaic waste. Mr. Clyncke has a longtime experience in establishing mandatory take-back and recycling schemes, especially of packaging, tire, oil, electronic waste.
Explain briefly the recycling process of a PV panel and R&D efforts to improve PV recycling?
Recycling PV modules is still a young industry. We therefore take an active role in promoting important innovations and making our industry viable. We are proud to have established the world’s first take-back and recycling system for PV module waste, enabling the recovery of various raw materials, and thus helping to conserve our valuable natural resources. By increasing resource efficiency and decreasing waste, PV CYCLE contributes to the European Union’s environmental targets.
At PV CYCLE, we are involved in R&D projects as well as current recycling activities. Our activities include the recovery of silicon and non-silicon based PV modules and our partners can already achieve recycling quotes between 80 and 90%. This is a real success for this long-lasting product. To further increase output efficiency, lower cost and improve access to recycling units, PV CYCLE is also involved in a number of R&D projects. Our projects are in cooperation with national and international partners from research, industry and university.
What is your vision of solar energy in 20 years?
At PV CYCLE we always look at the end-of-life phase of a product or industry. We are certain that solar electricity will continue to play a significant role in our energy mix and hope for its further expansion. But independent of the direction that the industry and politicians will take, PV CYCLE will make sure that PV module waste does not become an issue for end-users and the society.
With a technical lifetime of approximately 25 years, we expect that significant waste volumes will hit the market in the next 5 to 10 years. Especially mature markets such as Spain and Germany will see large quantities of discarded PV modules soon. For the Netherlands, the UK or France we count with another 10 to 15 years before PV projects will start to reach their end of life.
What do you think of when you hear “hybrid” or “2-in-1”?
We look at a PV product from a different point of view than manufacturers, distributors and end-users. Every technology is evaluated based on recyclability, recycling capacity and waste streams by us. While silicon based PV modules make up for approximately 80% of the collected and treated quantities, waste from hybrid panels is still relatively low.
Nevertheless, our network needs to be ready to capture these kinds of technologies too. We are therefore constantly on the look-out for new recycling innovations. Our operations staff has the mission to always offer the best-available techniques, while respecting our high environmental and economic standards.