EPA releases briefing paper on renewable energy waste management

EPA releases briefing paper on renewable energy waste management

The paper examines the waste produced once solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and windmills reach the end of their useful life.

Subscribe
January 12, 2021

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a brief paper outlining difficulties the U.S. will face when recycling and safely disposing of materials used for green energy technologies.

Titled “Renewable Energy Waste Streams: Preparing for the Future,” the paper examines the waste produced once solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and windmills reach the end of their useful life. This briefing paper hopes to identify key challenges that America faces in the near future as the growing use of renewable energy technologies creates a new generation of materials that need to be recycled or properly disposed of in order to protect human health and the environment.

“Recycling is a critical piece of our future for not only consumer commodities like paper and plastic, but also the ever-expanding renewable energy sector,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Without a strategy for their end-of-life management, so-called green technologies like solar panels, electric vehicle batteries and windmills will ultimately place the same unintended burdens on our planet and economy as traditional commodities.”

“It is vital that we adequately plan, prepare, and design renewable energy systems for reuse, recycling and proper end-of-life material management in the present, or we risk creating new environmental and economic burdens in the future,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management Peter Wright. “Appropriate and effective preparations need to occur along with the expanded use of renewable energy so that recycling systems and appropriate waste management infrastructures are in place when they are needed.”

According to the EPA, inadequate solid waste management systems present serious risks to human health, the environment and the economy, as well as loss of economic opportunity associated with the recovery of valuable materials. The agency says increasing U.S. investment in renewable energy systems will create new kinds and new volumes of waste.