End of the line:
How to dispose of photovoltaic modules free of charge.

Switzerland has had a sophisticated system for collecting and disposing of photovoltaic modules for over a decade. When you as a homeowner purchase a photovoltaic system, you already pay towards its future disposal. In return, manufacturers and importers are committed to taking back the systems at the end of their service life.

SENS eRecycling relieves partners of our company and Swissolar of this obligation by handling the disposal of photovoltaic modules once they reach the end of their service life. It is a win-win situation for everyone, from manufacturers and importers to homeowners and the environment. This is reflected in the numbers. Almost 100 per cent of photovoltaic modules in Switzerland are taken back.

Many homeowners are currently considering fitting a photovoltaic system (PV) to their roof to generate electricity. Many even have a number of offers on the table ready to be signed. Alongside the material and installation costs for the photovoltaic system, the providers that belong to the SENS eRecycling network also charge a separate advance recycling fee (ARF). This is because, just like other electronic appliances such as washing machines, hairdryers and vacuum cleaners, customers who purchase a photovoltaic system pay for their future disposal. In return, manufacturers and importers are committed to taking back systems at the end of their service life.

My photovoltaic system has reached the end of its service life. Now what?

In Switzerland, the advance recycling fee for all systems and PV modules sold is placed in a fund. If a PV system is damaged or reaches the end of its service life, SENS eRecycling uses this fund to pay for the professional disposal of the material.

As a homeowner, you can take up to 10 photovoltaic modules to your nearest SENS eRecycling collection point and return them free of charge. SENS eRecycling also collects larger quantities of old PV modules directly from its partners’ construction sites and brings them to a specialised recycling company. 

You can also have your PV system collected for free if it was fitted by one of our specialist installers, as you paid for this service already when purchasing the system.

SENS eRecycling and Swissolar have been organising this take-back system since 2013. This is part of the reason why nearly all PV modules in Switzerland are returned.

A strong network for recycling

The amount of PV modules recycled in Switzerland is currently still too small to make it worthwhile for Swiss disposal companies to concentrate on this service. That is why the modules are recycled at a facility just over the border on behalf of KWB Plan Real GmbH, with whom SENS eRecycling cooperates in this area.

The company checks the modules for any hazardous substances before disassembling them into their components. The glass is shredded together with the silicon and used to make glass wool, while metals like iron, aluminium and copper are recycled 1:1 for smelters. The plastic film used to keep the PV modules together is incinerated in a waste incineration plant, where it is then converted into heat or electricity depending on the specific plant. Alternatively, it is used to generate heat for cement production. This means that around 77 per cent of the raw materials used to make PV modules are introduced back into the cycle.