WEEE Ireland supporting new forum paper on issues with PV panels & compliance with EPR legislation

 

WEEE Ireland is supporting a new paper from its colleagues in the European WEEE Forum which highlights compliance challenges for Photovoltaic (PV) panels which require end of life solutions and financial guarantees to be put in place as part of environmental Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) obligations.

The recycling and recovery Scheme, representing over 1200 manufacturers and importers of electrical appliances and batteries in Ireland, is concerned about the impact PV Panels will have on target achievements required under the current WEEE Directive.

Significant amounts of photovoltaic (PV) panels are placed on the market (POM) in Europe every year, and there has been a huge increase over the past three years, with the European Union increasing the cumulative installed solar power capacity by 15% to 137.2 GW by the end of 2020. A new WEEE Forum paper looks at the effect this has on meeting the targets of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) legislation and calls on legislators and policymakers to address the issues it causes.

PV panels have been in the scope of Directive 2012/19/EU on WEEE since August 2012 and are classified as category 4 - 'large equipment'. Member States are supposed to ensure that collection targets for this category are achieved on a yearly basis. From 2019, the collection targets to be achieved are 65% of the average weight of EEE POM in the three preceding years in the Member State concerned, or 85% of WEEE generated on the territory of that Member State.

However, due to the long lifespans of PV panels and recent market penetration, PV panels are not yet arising as waste in significant quantities. The WEEE Directive does not set a specific category for PV panels, nor a specific collection target. Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) in some Member States are still required to report PV panels mixed with other category 4 waste types, making it impossible to trace and monitor PV panel flows independent of other waste types.

As most Member States apply the collection target based on the POM methodology, this means that collection targets for PV panels are not achievable. It is of concern that to be able to reach those collection targets, some PROs are required to compensate the low return of PV panels by collecting higher amounts of other category 4 waste appliances, which distorts the basic principles of the Directive - especially the extended producer responsibility principle.

The paper, produced by the WEEE Forum in conjunction with its working group on PV Panels, analyses the PV market situation and the difficulties in achieving the EPR obligations laid down in WEEE legislation and offers policy recommendations.

The main messages from the paper include:

  • Legislators and policymakers should stop applying collection targets based on the POM methodology to PV panels.
  • Authorities should support research aimed at understanding the flow of PV panels at EU level to lay down realistic separate collection targets.

In the meantime, alternatives such as service upon demand schemes should be considered a valid solution during and after this transition process. Alternatively, a derogation of the POM collection target should be considered until the amounts of waste PV panels start to arise in sufficient volume to warrant a meaningful target.

To avoid a distortion of the EPR principle, a separate category for PV panels in the legislation should be considered. The European Commission should enforce the requirement that Member States report PV panels placed on the market and collected in a separate category (4b) as per Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/2193.

Member States should urgently request harmonized specific legislative measures to ensure a fair and realistic compliance of the extended producer responsibility principle for PV panels.

The full paper can be read here.