Could solar cells harm the environment?

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Photovoltaic cells provide environmental benefits but unless properly disposed of they could amount to over 600,000 tons of un-recycled waste per year.

The rapidly expanding market for photovoltaic (solar) cells brings obvious environmental benefits, encouraging the use of alternative energy resources and reducing the world's reliance on oil.

Yet despite these advantages, the disposal of photovoltaic cells creates an environmental problem: it is estimated that 1.4 million tons of photovoltaic modules have already been sold throughout Europe, of these some will already be waste before 2011. The volume of photovoltaic modules sold in 2010 alone amounts to a potential future waste of 600,000 tons.

PV Cycle is an environmental organization which was set up in 2007 to implement a voluntary recycling scheme with manufacturers of photovoltaic cells. The organization currently has 107 members which represent 85 percent of Europe's photovoltaic market. On September 2 manufacturer of solar cells Sanyo became the first company to sign a legally binding agreement with PV Cycle confirming the company's commitment to recycling its photovoltaic products.

European consumers wishing to dispose of their depleted household solar panels in an environmentally friendly way can input their postcode on the PV Cycle website to find information on their nearest photovoltaic collection point.