Japanese flat glass manufacturer AGC has reported a glass recycling first after it converted solar panels into cullet.

AGC has succeeded for the first time in Japan in a demonstration test to recycle about 24 tons of used solar panel cover glass into raw material cullet (pieces of broken glass).

The test was conducted from October 19 to 22, 2023 at the AGC Yokohama Technical Center's figured glass production furnace.

For the recovery of glass from solar panels, the test used the heat treatment technology of the commercial solar panel recycling production line of Mitsubishi Chemical Group company Shinryo Corporation.

The service life of solar panels is estimated to be 20-30 years, and panels weighing hundreds of thousands of tons are expected to be disposed of annually starting in the late 2030s.

Cover glass accounts for about 60% of this total weight, and there is concern that a serious environmental impact will occur if disposed of as industrial waste in large quantities in landfill.

In this demonstration test, it was confirmed that solar panel cover glass can be turned into raw material cullet that can be reused for flat glass production through a special heat treatment.

This will reduce industrial waste and conserve raw materials derived from natural resources such as silica sand and soda ash, thereby contributing to the promotion of the circular economy.

The promotion of raw material cullet use will also lead to GHG emission reductions in the manufacturing process.