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Solar Waste Recycling: Can the Industry Stay Green?

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Photo: © Foto-Bšhme Frauenstein / Detlev MŸller (via Spot.Us)
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Ed. Note: This article by Erica Gies comes via the publicly funded Spot.Us and couldn't be more well timed. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power has released their 20-year strategic plan for energy and the first public hearing will be on Thursday. As groups like the Sierra Club push for L.A. moving beyond coal, all aspects of renewables need to be examined. Here's a look at green energy products and a movement to make them more sustainable.

Clean-tech firms seek to reuse a variety of rare, potentially toxic materials. New businesses emerge as manufacturers prepare for modules' end of life.

In recent years the electronics industry has gained notoriety for creating an endless stream of disposable products that make their way at life’s end to developing countries, where poor people without safety gear cut and burn out valuable materials, spilling contaminants into their water, air and lungs.

Solar modules contain some of the same potentially dangerous materials as electronics, including silicon tetrachloride, cadmium, selenium and sulfur hexafluoride, a potent greenhouse gas. So as solar moves from the fringe to the mainstream, insiders and watchdog groups are beginning to talk about producer responsibility and recycling in an attempt to sidestep the pitfalls of electronic waste and retain the industry’s green credibility.