The exponential growth of photovoltaic (PV) installations highlights the necessity to cope with the environmental impacts which could raise from wrong practices for disposal of end-of-life PV modules. In fact, their possible disposal in landfills would represent a loss of materials and energy, as PV modules are goods that can become very useful even at the end of their life.
In order to improve the valorisation of waste coming from end-of-life PV modules and of materials they contain, high value recycling processes are needed. These solutions differ from other end-of-life management alternatives, that are generally more simple and economical, like for example the treatment of the PV modules in a recycling plant for laminated glass or their disposal at a landfill after the recovery of the aluminium frame and a pre-treatment in a municipal incineration plant. All these low value approaches have in common the loss of valuable resources, represented by high value materials and components contained in PV modules (wafer/silicon, indium, tellurium and so on), which inevitably would end their life cycle in a landfill, without being adequately recovered.
Differently, some separation and treatment processes have been recently developed, adopting machines and also plants deriving from traditional mineral processing, which allow recovering and recycling of precious metals and materials.