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Prospective material and substance flow analysis of the end-of-life phase of crystalline silicon-based PV modules
Resources, Conservation and Recycling  (IF10.204),  Pub Date : 2021-10-06, DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105917
Gwenny Thomassen, Jo Dewulf, Steven Van Passel

The approaching end-of life phase of early installed PV modules gave rise to a variety of potential end-of-life strategies, ranging from basic generic waste management strategies to advanced case-specific recycling options. However, no comprehensive assessment on the full range of technological possibilities is available and only limited attention was given to the material recovery rates of these different technologies in light of circular economy. In addition, current material recovery rates are indifferent towards the material value and the value of their secondary applications. Based on an extensive literature review, ten end-of-life scenarios with potential learning effects are identified and their material flows are quantified using a combined material and substance flow analysis. Subsequently, material recovery rates from a mass, economic value and embodied energy perspective are calculated, incorporating the differences in secondary applications. The differences in the mass-based recovery rates of the seven end-of-life scenarios that did not have landfill or municipal waste incineration as the main destination were minimal, as 73-79% of the mass was recovered for the best-case learning scenario. For the economic value recovery rate (9-66%) and the embodied energy recovery rate (18-45%), more profound differences were found. The collection rate was identified as most crucial parameter for all end-of-life scenarios, learning scenarios and recycling indicators. The mass-based recovery rate might favor end-of-life scenarios that lead to dissipation of valuable materials in non-functional secondary applications. Additional targets are required to avoid cascading of valuable materials and to avoid the economic cost and environmental burden of virgin materials.