Renewable energy technologies, such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels and batteries, are essential for Europe’s transition to climate neutrality. Deployment, maintenance and replacement of this infrastructure requires significant resources, including many substances included in the EU list of critical raw materials.

Waste arising from end-of-life clean energy infrastructure is projected to grow up to 30-fold over the next 10 years, presenting significant opportunities to reduce consumption of scarce raw materials by recycling metals and other valuable resources back into production systems. Circular economy approaches such as repair and upgrading of equipment and recycling of end-of-life infrastructure can underpin the sustainability credentials of Europe’s renewable energy transition.

This briefing by the European Environment Agency focuses on the waste aspect of three main renewable energy infrastructure types: solar PV cells for electricity production, wind turbines and batteries for energy storage. This briefing describes the nature and scale of the circular economy aspects, the opportunities and challenges that the deployment of these three technologies brings and how policy can help drive the changes to achieve the best environmental outcome.

The report can be downloaded here