Part of the problem is that solar panels are complicated to recycle. They’re made of many materials, some hazardous, and assembled with adhesives and sealants that make breaking them apart challenging.
"The longevity of these panels, the way they’re put together and how they make them make it inherently difficult to, to use a term, de-manufacture," said Mark Robards, director of special projects for ECS Refining, one of the largest electronics recyclers in the U.S. The panels are torn apart mechanically and broken down with acids to separate out the crystalline silicon, the semiconducting material used by most photovoltaic manufacturers. Heat systems are used to burn up the adhesives that bind them to their armatures, and acidic hydro-metallurgical systems are used to separate precious metals.
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Oh boy. Nothing is as easy as it seems. For a long time I thought solar panels lasted basically forever. Nope.