Current PV modules on the market are not designed for circularity (meaning easy to disassemble, repair, refurbish and recycle). They cannot be “re-opened” and the only way for recycling is through destructive processes such as shredding. The irreversible design severely limits repair/refurbish potentials, as well as the recovery of valuable materials.
There are multiple research initiatives in PV eco-design (such as CABRISS and EcoSolar). But despite of the advancements in technological research, there is currently a clear lack of business incentives for manufacturers to implement design-for-circularity. Quoting one manufacturer: “Our clients need high quality, long lifetime, low price and good aesthetics of the solar module. Very rarely, they ask about recycling possibilities of solar module and other issues related to circularity.”
CIRCUSOL will focus on the economic aspects of design-for-circularity to create business incentives for the manufacturers. PV manufacturer (Solitek) will work together with recycler (Loser Chemie), Producer Responsibility Organization (PV Cycle) and research institute (IMEC) to identify how product design can lead to potential life cycle cost reduction, and how business models can help to align incentives and create business win-win for circular product designs.