Buying and using solar panels seems to be a long-term investment, as a single panel might continue to function for up to 30 years. However, the current legislation that is binding across the EU and in Poland, obliges the producer or an introducer of solar panels to contribute to the costs of waste management and recycling at the outset. Such a contribution can be considered as an advance payment, for a time when the solar panels indeed do become waste.
The duties described in this article form only a part of all the obligations imposed on producer of waste, which is how the operator of a solar farm is considered. Despite the fact that waste production is neither the goal, nor the main activity of the producer, it is an important aspect of solar business operation to bear in mind.
The Polish law mainly follows the European waste management procedures. The key regulations in that area are:
- The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act of 11 September 2015 (consolidated text: Journal of Laws of 2015, item 1688, as amended) (‘the WEEE Act’)
- The Act on Waste of 14 December 2012 (consolidated text: Journal of Laws of 2013, item 21, as amended) (‘the Waste Act’)
The Waste Act and the WEEE Act impose various duties that have to be performed annually in any solar farm’s activity.
As the above regulations are broad, they can be narrowed to three possibilities of complying with its provisions:
1. Cooperating with electrical/electronic equipment recycling organisation
You may decide to cooperate with an electrical and electronic equipment recovery organisation on the basis on the written agreement, which will allow the transfer of the majority of duties from you to the organisation. Such a possibility is common and, in fact, the most convenient solution to manage these responsibilities. However, some duties imposed by the WEEE Act and the Waste Act cannot be passed on to such an organisation and have to be performed directly.
2. By the Authorised Representative
This solution makes things easier for companies that are not familiar with Polish regulations and requires a complex and professional approach to waste management matters – however, you must check that your company falls under the provisions which allow it to do so, or whether you are obliged to appoint such a representative.
Who is an Authorised Representative? As the WEEE Act states, it is a person appointed in Poland by a producer of solar energy, who is to be responsible for carrying out the duties specified by law for the introducer of the equipment which originates from the producer, if the producer is an entity registered outside of Poland.
If the company falls under the regulation of the WEEE Act, it is allowed to appoint an Authorised Representative to perform all the duties imposed by waste management law (except from the duty described in art. 12 section 2 of the WEEE Act).
3. Fulfilling the reporting duties imposed by law on your own
If the owner of the solar farm decides so, it can fulfil the duties imposed by these acts on its own. If the solar farm owner decides to perform these duties itself, it is obliged fulfil numerous criteria and administrative procedures. The list of such obligations is wide, therefore it should be thoroughly verified, to see if your company is ready to take on such a commitment.
Once you have chosen the best option, or you have found out which one is mandatory for you, you have the following responsibilities that you absolutely must ensure:
1. Achieving equipment-collection and recovery and recycling levels.
The most important point, often neglected, is the obligation for an introducer of equipment to:
- Achieve levels of collection of waste equipment and packaging required by law, such as used air-conditioning equipment, laptops, screens, lamps, cardboard packages or finally - used solar panels and accordingly;
- achieve levels of recovery and preparation for re-use and recycling of such waste equipment and packaging required by law.
The detailed list of examples and categories of electronic and electric equipment and types of resources used for packaging that falls under this obligation can be found in the Attachment 1 to the Waste Act and Attachment 1 to Act On The Management Of Packaging And Packaging Waste. Failure to comply means paying the product fee.
The product fee is considered as a penalty for not fulfilling the obligations imposed and not producing a certain amount of waste, or as an 'upfront payment' for products that will be recycled in the future. The amount of the product fee depends primarily on the weight of packaging or equipment placed on the market in kilograms as well as the required and achieved level of recycling or recovery. The
2. Registration with the Polish Database of Waste (so-called “BDO”) and report on waste generated and waste management
In connection with registration with the BDO, the solar farm owner will be required to submit every year a report on waste generated and waste management (waste report) until 15 March of the following calendar year. Such reports are only filed online.
3. Maintenance of waste records
Additionally, throughout the year, the solar farm owner should keep waste records on an individual account in the Register of Waste. They depend on type of products and activity of the producer. The exemplary records that should be kept are cards with details of:
- Waste transfer
- Hazardous waste;
The Waste Act regulates in detail the scope of keeping such records, and the situations in which it is not necessary to keep them – such as when an entity does not produce 100 kg of hazardous waste or if it produces up to five tonnes non-hazardous waste annually.
Documents related to waste records and all data should be kept for five years due to possible audit proceedings.
4. Maintaining records of the weight of the equipment installed
Another duty is keeping and maintaining records of the weight of the equipment. The solar farm owner is obliged to:
- Keep additional records including information on the weight of equipment
- Keep additional records and certificates of both waste equipment and packaging.
The records should be kept for five years from the end of the calendar year to which they relate. Data contained in additional records and waste equipment certificates constitutes the basis for calculating the levels of waste equipment collection, recovery and preparation for reuse and recycling achieved.
The gap in the Polish market resulting from the low interest of domestic investors in renewable energy sources (there are still not enough local firms active in the renewable energy sector) encourages foreign businesses to develop their activities in Poland. This type of niche activity includes construction of solar farms supplying energy to the region. This article can be an introduction to efficient and trouble-free management of waste produced as a consequence of owning and operating a solar form.
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