Yes, of course, solar lights can recycle. Solar lights are made up of plastic, glass and metal-like materials.
Those materials can be separated and recycled at the end of the light’s lifespan. The recycling process may be varied according to the materials used for construction and location.
Typically solar panels are constructed using silicon materials, they can be recycled or else reused breaking down into smaller particles.
We can obtain metal scrap by recycling aluminum parts such as Al frames in solar lights.
But the Li-ion batteries or any other batteries used in solar lights or LED lights should be recycled or disposed of properly according to local rules and regulations.
Why do we need to recycle solar lights?
You can’t directly drop the solar lights into the trash bin. Because they are made up of several toxic chemical hazards such as cadmium and lead. Let’s have a look at why solar lights need to recycle.
Environmental impact – As I mentioned earlier, the lights are made up of toxic materials and at the end of their lifespan we need to dispose of or recycle them properly. Otherwise, it ends up in landfills and contributes to water or any other pollution and waste in the environment.
Resource Conservation – You can construct novel products by using recycling materials like aluminum, glass, silicon metal, and plastic which are made up of solar lights. Those recycled materials can reduce the over-extraction of metal-like materials from the earth and increase resource use efficiency.
Energy Conservation – The recycling process can conserve more energy than extracting new raw materials from the earth. Because extraction processes need more energy for the function of tools and equipment.
Economic Benefits – The recycling process can reduce energy usage and increase resource availability for new products which directly impacts cost redundancy. As well as create new job opportunities in recycling industries.
Legal Compliance – Most countries and regions have rules and regulations on recycling materials like batteries. Because those materials can have negative impacts on the environment. So recycling solar lights can support manufacturing companies and consumers to comply with these rules and regulations.
What are the different methods of solar light recycling?
Mechanical Recycling: In here physically break down solar lights into smaller parts. Such as glass lenses, electronic components, and plastic housing. After that, the breakdown parts are sorted out and recycled separately.
Chemical Recycling: Here chemicals are used to break down plastic and other materials in solar lights. This method is more efficient to recover materials like plastic but we have to spend more money and need technical knowledge.
Thermal Recycling: High temperatures are used to break down the materials in solar lights. This method is more efficient for recovering metals in solar lights. But more energy-intensive and emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere.
Component Recovery: In here solar lights are separated into several parts like LEDs, solar panels and batteries. After that, they are recycled or repurposed.
The above methods are widely used to recycle solar lights. You can choose one of them according to the suitability of the method.
How do you recycle solar light?
1 Step – Remove the battery
You should carefully remove the battery from the solar light. After that, you can sort out batteries by types such as alkaline, lead-acid, lithium-ion, and nickel-cadmium.
Next, tape the battery ends with electrical tape or masking tape to avoid accidental discharge.
2 Step- Remove the LED lights
Carefully remove the LED light from your light fixtures or device in solar light. You should make sure properly turn off the power source and disconnect the solar light before removing them. After that, you can dispose of them according to local rules and regulations.
3 Step – Remove the Solar panel
you need to carefully remove the solar panel from the solar light. But you should make yourself properly disconnect the panel and switch off the power source.
4 Step – Separate the other materials
You can separate other materials which are made up of light such as plastic, metal, and glass. After that, you can sort out them according to their types and weights and separately pack them in individual bags.
5 Step – Check recycling options
You need to find out what is the nearest and most suitable recycling center in your region. Sometimes all the materials can not be recycled in the individual center, therefore, you need to bring them to several recycling centers.
6 Step – Transport the materials to the recycling center
You should carefully bring them into the recycling facility without any damage or else breakages. Make sure to transport them in a sturdy container and batteries, light keep them in the upright position. Don’t worry rest of the things will take care of by the recycling facility.
How to reuse your old solar light?
Reusing it is a good idea to extend your solar light life and save you money. I have mentioned a few steps to reuse your solar lights.
Clean the solar light: Sometimes your solar lights are not working because of a lot of dirt, dust, and debris accumulated in it. So you can clean the light with cotton or any other soft cloth.
Check the status of the battery: you can check your battery using a multimeter, or battery tester, or else you can observe your battery for any sign of leakage or corrosion.
Otherwise, you can turn on your solar light and check how bright it shines. If it is shining dimly or not working you can easily identify it. Whether your battery is not working you can replace it with a new one.
Check the solar panel: You can physically check the panel for its having any kind of cracks or scratches if it is damaged, it may not be able to function properly. Otherwise check the wiring to sure it is properly connected. There are some loose or frayed wires it may be not able to work properly as usual. If it is not working you need to replace it with a new panel.
Repurpose the lights: you can consider for use your light for another purpose. Such as your older outdoor solar light no longer works well outdoors if you can use it as a garden or accent light. Which is more beneficial than throwing it away.
Sell or give away: If your solar panel still not working you can sell the parts for a beneficial purpose or else give them to someone who needs them. The money earned from selling can use to purchase new solar lights or any other purpose.
Eng. Matthew Joseph Nandirio is the Founder of walkingsolar.
After graduating from the University of Houston in 2002, matt started working as a Solar Electrical Engineer for several multi-national solar energy companies.
He has a wide range of experiences including solar system requirement analysis, planning, maintaining, debugging and even solar device development through research.
He now shares his 20 years of expertise through his articles on the walkingsolar website.
Further, he is also the author of two books on Solar Technology, “Solar Power for Villages” and “DIY Solar System for Dummies”.