Solar Panel Recycling in Illinois: From Old Panels to New Possibilities

Illinois is becoming an increasingly popular place for solar panel installations. Last year, there were nearly 60,000 installations. Thanks to the ample sunshine throughout the year, renewable energy is becoming an increasingly viable power source for Illinois residents.

Solar capacity and growth projections for the state of Illinois

However, like any technology, solar panels become outdated over time, lose efficiency, and require replacement. This raises the question: What happens to old solar panels, and what’s the right way to handle solar panel recycling?

According to SEIA‘s forecast, the number of solar capacities installed in Illinois will increase by over 1700% by 2028. Therefore, there’s already a huge need for solar panel recycling in Illinois.

So, without any further ado, let’s explore the principal questions about solar panel recycling:

  • Are solar panels recyclable?
  • When should one consider solar panel recycling?
  • How do you recycle solar panels?
  • Are there solar panel recycling companies in Illinois?

Don’t waste another minute — read on to learn more about solar panel recycling in the state of Illinois.

Solar Panel Disposal: What Is It and Why Consider It?

Recycling solar panels implies disassembling panels into their components and reusing or disposing of these components. It is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of old solar panels because it allows to:

➥   Reduce the amount of waste going to landfills

➥   Recover valuable materials such as silicon, aluminum, and copper

➥   Reduce the need to mine new materials

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) plays an important role in solar panel recycling. In 2022, this center launched a new initiative aiming to address the issue of PV recycling — PV cells that have reached the end of their life.

Looking for the best solar panel recycling in Illinois? Get your free solar quote right away! 

ISTC is already taking steps to achieve its goals. As part of the initiative, experts:

  1. Coordinate efforts between state agencies and solar panel manufacturers to establish an effective recycling system in Illinois.
  2. Seek innovative ways to reuse and repurpose solar panel components.
  3. Conduct campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of PV recycling among homeowners and other stakeholders.

Solar recycling is absolutely necessary, and the government is already taking steps to streamline this process for homeowners.

Stages of the Solar Panel Recycling in Illinois

Thanks to the increasing popularity and advancement of technologies, the service life of solar panels is constantly increasing.

However, even the most modern panels are not eternal. Within 25–30 years, their productivity significantly decreases, irreversibly turning them into scrap solar panels. The solar panel life cycle ends when panels can no longer meet the owner’s energy needs. That’s the moment solar panels should be sent for recycling.

But how are solar panels recycled? The solar recycling process consists of 5 main stages:

Stage Description
#1. Collection Old solar panels are collected from their installation sites.
#2. Transportation Panels are transported to the recycling center.
#3. Sorting Panels are sorted by type and material.
#4. Disassembly Panels are disassembled into their components, such as glass, silicon, aluminum, and copper.
#5. Solar panel recycling Components are processed and used to manufacture new products.


Solar panel recycling seems straightforward and understandable, but the most interesting part happens at the last stage. The main goal is to extract useful elements from the panels using special equipment. The extraction part happens in several stages:

  1. Frame removal: The first step is to remove the frame from the panel, usually using mechanical tools (saws, cutters).
  2. Glass separation: Next, manually or using automated systems, the glass is separated from other panel components.
  3. Thermal treatment: The glass and other components are heated to high temperatures to evaporate plastics and other organic materials. This also helps to break the silicon plates into smaller pieces.
  4. Silicon plate etching: Silicon plates remaining after thermal treatment undergo chemical etching to remove any impurities. This makes them suitable for reuse.

Is It Worth Recycling Solar Batteries?

While not all solar panels require batteries, many systems are equipped with them to provide backup power.

Like any other batteries, they harm the environment. They contain harmful substances (lead, cadmium, lithium) that can leak into the soil and water.

Improper disposal of solar panel batteries harms human health and the environment, while recycling contributes to nature conservation, resource preservation, and waste reduction. So, if you notice that your solar system is outdated, check the battery’s efficiency.

DIY Recycling vs. Solar Panel Recycling Companies

Solar recycling is a multi-stage process that requires specialized equipment and knowledge. Although it may seem like a more cost-effective approach to recycle solar panels yourself, it can be dangerous for both you and the environment.

If you still decide to take matters into your own hands, make sure you have:

➥   Thoroughly researched the process of disposal of solar panels, as well as necessary tools, equipment, and methods

➥   Contacted relevant authorities and obtained permits to recycle hazardous waste

➥   Taken measures to protect yourself and the environment from harmful materials

Can you recycle solar panels yourself? Yes, but only to a certain extent. You should keep in mind that DIY recycling is a responsible process and requires legal coordination. Therefore, we recommend turning to specialists in solar recycling.

Certified Solar Panel Recycling in Illinois

In Illinois, both R2-certified recycling centers offer comprehensive services for commercial and residential clients. There are also several alternative solar panel recycling companies.

For your convenience, we have compiled a list of the top three centers so you can learn more about their services and offerings and choose the best solar panel recycling company.

Center/Company name Contact Information
Interco – A metaltronics recycling ➥   Physical Address: 10 FOX INDUSTRIAL DRIVE, MADISON, ILLINOIS 62060

➥   Phone: (877) 200-0840

➥   E-mail: [email protected]

Solar Recycling ➥   E-mail: [email protected]

➥   Contact form

SOLARCYCLE ➥   Contact form

The Green Future Starts With You

Are you an Illinois resident looking to replace an old solar system but have no idea what to do with the old solar panels? Solar panel recycling is a simple and environmentally friendly process that’ll help you dispose of old solar panels and protect the environment.

Living in a more eco-friendly way doesn’t have to be challenging. Get your free solar quote right away and find the best solar panel recycling center in Illinois! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does disposal of solar panels cost in Illinois?

The cost of recycling in Illinois can vary depending on the quantity and type of solar panel modules and the recycling center. Typically, the price ranges from $2 to $4 per PV solar panel.

What types of solar panels can be recycled in Illinois?

At the end of the life cycle of solar panels in Illinois, many types can be recycled. However, panels containing hazardous materials (like cadmium and telluride thin-film panels) may require special disposal.

Where to recycle solar panels in Illinois?

In Illinois, you can turn to specialized centers for the disposal of solar panels. They accept panels from both homeowners and businesses. You can find the right center online by searching “recycle solar panels near me” or using the information provided in this article.

How should I handle the disposing of solar panels?

Before recycling solar panels, we recommend cleaning them of dirt and dust and disconnecting the wires if possible.