BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó

                                                                     SB 489

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          Date of Hearing:  June 30, 2015


                                  Luis Alejo, Chair

          489 (Monning) - As Amended April 6, 2015

          SENATE VOTE:  35-0

          SUBJECT:  Hazardous waste: photovoltaic modules.

          SUMMARY:  Authorizes photovoltaic modules (known as solar  
          panels) to be managed as universal waste.  Specifically, this  

             1)   Finds and declares that California has adopted policies  
               that have contributed to making the state a leader in the  
               installation of solar energy systems.

             2)   Finds and declares these policies include the California  
               Solar Initiative, the state's net energy metering program,  
               and the California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). 

             3)   Finds and declares that existing solar energy systems  
               use photovoltaic technology to capture sunlight and convert  
               it into electricity until the end of their useful lives,  
               estimated to be between 25 and 40 years. 


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             4)   Finds and declares the numerous renewable and  
               customer-generated solar programs in California have led to  
               a rapid expansion of solar energy systems and that an  
               increasing amount of end-of-life photovoltaic modules can  
               be expected from 2020 onwards, and that recycling is the  
               most sustainable way to manage end-of-life photovoltaic  

             5)   States the intent of the Legislature to foster a  
               comprehensive and innovative system for the reuse,  
               recycling and proper and legal disposal of end-of-life  
               photovoltaic modules. 

             6)   States the intent of the Legislature to encourage the  
               photovoltaic module industry to create a photovoltaic  
               recycling organization to develop a plan for recycling  
               end-of-life photovoltaic modules in order to make  
               end-of-life management of photovoltaic modules convenient  
               for consumers and the public and to ensure the return and  
               recycling of photovoltaic modules. 

             7)   Authorizes the Department of Toxic Substances Control  
               (DTSC) to designate end-of-life photovoltaic modules that  
               are identified as hazardous waste as a universal waste and  
               subject those modules to universal waste management. 

          EXISTING LAW:   

             1)   Requires, pursuant to the Integrated Water Management  
               Act of 1989, each city and county in California to  
               implement a plan to divert 25-percent of its waste stream  
               by 1995 and 50-percent of its waste stream starting in  
               2000. (Public Resources Code (PRC) § 41780, et seq.)


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             2)   Defines hazardous wastes as those identified in  
               regulation by DTSC; wastes categorized as hazardous under  
               the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA);  
               and, extremely hazardous waste and acutely hazardous waste.  
               (Health & Safety Code § 25117)

             3)   Regulates seven categories of hazardous wastes that can  
               be managed as universal wastes. (California Code of  
               Regulations (CCR), Title 22, Division 4.5, Ch. 22)

             4)   Requires the California Department of Resources  
               Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) to coordinate with DTSC  
               to develop and implement a public information program to  
               provide uniform and consistent information on the proper  
               disposal of hazardous substances found in and around homes,  
               and to assist the efforts of counties required to provide  
               household hazardous waste collection, recycling, and  
               disposal programs. (PRC § 47050 - 47051)

             5)   Allows CalRecycle to provide grants to local governments  
               to help prevent the disposal of HHW, including for programs  
               that expand or initially implement HHW programs. (PRC §  

             6)   Requires, by December 31, 2020, 33% of total retail  
               sales of electricity in California to be generated from  
               eligible renewable energy resources, including from solar  
               energy. (PUC § 399.11-399.32) 

             7)   Defines "solar energy system" as a solar energy device  
               that has the primary purpose of providing for the  
               collection and distribution of solar energy for the  
               generation of electricity, that produces at least one  
               kilowatt, and produces not more than five megawatts,  


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               alternating current rated peak electricity, and that meets  
               or exceeds the eligibility criteria established by the  
               commission or the California Energy Commission. (Public  
               Utilities Code (PUC) § 2852) 

          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Senate Appropriations  
          Committee, this bill will likely result in one-time costs of  
          $28,000 from the Toxic Substances Control Account to resubmit  
          universal waste regulations for photovoltaic modules.


          Need for the bill: According to the author, "Photovoltaic (PV)  
          modules, commonly referred to as solar panels, have varying  
          useful lives with some estimates ranging from 25-40 years.  As  
          part of California's effort to invest in solar installation, it  
          is critical to consider its inevitable waste stream by making it  
          easier for end-users to properly dispose and recycle these PV  
          modules, promote efforts that provide a comprehensive system for  
          take-back and recycling, and discourage disposal to landfills?

          "While some PV module companies may provide take-back and  
          recycling services for their end-of-life PV modules, there is no  
          comprehensive industry standard or system in place to deal with  
          all PV modules?

          "SB 489 allows for a universal waste designation for hazardous  
          waste PV modules, which will provide flexibility for companies  
          or third-parties to develop more effective and cost efficient  
          methods of handling PV modules within a take-back and recycle  
          program.  Universal waste designation relieves the burden of  
          meeting some of the state's rigorous hazardous waste laws and  
          allows the waste to be streamlined in existing systems for  
          proper management similar to electronic devices, batteries, or  


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          CRVs [cathode ray tubes]."

          Life expectancy of a solar panel: According to the Solar Energy  
          Industries Association, "[Solar panels] are designed to last  
          more than 25 years, and many manufacturers back their products  
          with performance guarantees backed by warranties. The lifespan  
          of a [solar panel] is approximately 20-30 years, while the  
          lifetime of an inverter is approximately 10 years. Therefore,  
          many solar products have not yet reached end-of-life, and in  
          fact, panels installed in the early 1980s are still performing  
          at levels nearly equal to the installation performance level.  
          Thus, even accounting for the dramatic growth of the industry,  
          annual [solar panel] waste will not exceed 10,000 tons until  
          after 2014, and will not exceed 100,000 tons until after 2017."

          Right now, solar panel recycling suffers from a chicken-or-egg  
          problem: there currently aren't many places to recycle old solar  
          panels, and there aren't enough defunct solar panels to make  
          recycling them economically attractive. 

          Solar energy is ever-growing: Under California law, the RPS  
          requires 33% of all of California's energy to be generated from  
          eligible renewable energy resources, including solar energy, by  
          2020. In May 2015, the Public Utilities Commission reported that  
          California's three largest Independent Utility Operators (IOU)  
          collectively served 22.7% of their 2013 retail electricity sales  
          with renewable power, and the IOUs are on track to achieve the  
          2020 RPS mandate. Much of that can be attributed to solar. As of  
          December 2014, 8,544 megawatts of cumulative solar energy have  
          been installed in California. There were 642 megawatts of solar  
          energy installed in California in the third quarter of 2014,  
          which marks a 37% increase over the same quarter last year. 

          Governor Brown made statements in his January 5, 2015, Inaugural  
          Address proposing to increase, from one-third to 50 percent our  


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          electricity derived from renewable sources, and there are  
          multiple pending legislative proposals to codify that proposal.  
          If an increase in the RPS mandate is successful, there will  
          likely be a significant uptick in solar panel installations and,  
          therefore, eventual solar panel disposal. 

          Universal waste: Under current law, it is illegal to dispose of  
          hazardous waste in the garbage, down storm drains, or onto the  
          ground.  Universal waste, which is regulated by DTSC (California  
          Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 22, Division 4.5, Chapter 23),  
          comes primarily from consumer products containing mercury, lead,  
          cadmium and other substances that are hazardous to human health  
          and the environment. Examples of universal waste are batteries,  
          fluorescent tubes, and many electronic devices. These items  
          cannot be discarded in household trash or disposed of in  

          Are solar panels hazardous? End-of-life disposal of solar  
          products in the United States is governed by RCRA, and state  
          policies that govern waste. To be governed by RCRA, solar panels  
          must be classified as hazardous waste. To be classified as  
          hazardous, panels must fail to pass the Toxicity Characteristics  
          Leach Procedure (TCLP) test. Most solar panels pass the TCLP  
          test, and thus are classified as non-hazardous and are not  
          federally regulated. 

          However, the production of solar panels involves toxic heavy  
          metals, such as cadmium, copper, lead, and selenium; therefore,  
          some solar panels are likely to exhibit the characteristic of  
          toxicity that have adverse environmental and public health  

          Current regulatory thinking on governing solar panel disposal:  
          Given that solar panels can be recycled and that portions of the  
          panels can be reclaimed for use in new panels, or used in other  


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          products such as fiberglass, DTSC proposed amending its  
          regulations (CCR, Title 22, Division 4.5, Chapter 10 (commencing  
          with §66260.10), Chapter 11 (commencing with §66261.1), and  
          Chapter 23 (commencing with §66273.1)) to manage solar panels  
          that are a hazardous waste as a universal waste, stating:  
               "In 2009, DTSC became aware that some [solar panels] may be  
               hazardous waste by California standards for non-RCRA  
               hazardous waste (i.e., [solar panels] that fail  
               California's hazardous waste criteria for toxicity). DTSC  
               conducted further research and found that few [solar  
               panels] on the market had undergone hazardous waste  
               testing. However, available information indicates that most  
               [solar panels] do not fail the federal hazardous waste  
               criteria for toxicity (i.e., are not federally-regulated  
               RCRA hazardous waste). If such [solar panels] then fail  
               California hazardous waste criteria, then those   [solar  
               panels] would be non-RCRA hazardous waste. Therefore, based  
               on available information on hazardous waste testing to  
               date, DTSC believes that some [solar panels] would likely  
               only be hazardous waste under California hazardous waste  
               criteria for toxicity. Thus, these non-RCRA hazardous waste  
               [solar panels] would be subject to full hazardous waste  
               management standards when handled in California." 

          However, on October 8, 2013, the Office of Administrative Law  
          (OAL) disapproved the proposed regulations citing the expired  
          statute authorizing DTSC to adopt new universal waste  

          After consideration of OAL's concerns, DTSC decided to withdraw  
          the proposed solar panel regulations package. DTSC plans to  
          pursue obtaining authorization from the US EPA to implement the  
          federal Universal Waste Regulations in California-a process that  
          was initiated by DTSC in 2003, but was never completed. Upon  
          completion of the application for RCRA Authorization and  
          approval by the United States Environmental Protection Agency,  
          DTSC intends to reintroduce this rulemaking for Proposed  
          Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Photovoltaic Modules. 


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          Extended producer responsibility (EPR): This bill is essentially  
          calling on solar panel manufacturers to establish an EPR  
          framework for spent solar panels. 

          CalRecycle defines EPR as a strategy to place a shared  
          responsibility for end-of-life product management on the  
          producers, and all entities involved in the product chain,  
          instead of the general public; while encouraging product design  
          changes that minimize a negative impact on human health and the  
          environment at every stage of the product's lifecycle.  This  
          allows the costs of treatment and disposal to be incorporated  
          into the total cost of a product.  It places primary  
          responsibility on the producer, or brand owner, who makes design  
          and marketing decisions. It also creates a setting for markets  
          to emerge that truly reflect the environmental impacts of a  
          product, and to which producers and consumers respond. 

          By shifting costs and responsibilities of product disposal to  
          producers and others who directly benefit, EPR provides an  
          incentive to eliminate waste and pollution through product  
          design changes. 

          Related legislation: 

             1)   SB 1020 (Monning, 2014) would have designated solar  
               panels with hazardous waste properties to be classified as  
               universal waste. The bill also would have required  
               producers of solar panels to have a take-back and recycling  
               plan. That bill was held by the author in the Senate  
               Environmental Quality. 


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             2)   AB 645 (Williams), which is pending in the Senate Rules  
               Committee, would increase the State's RPS from 33% to 50%  
               by 2030. 

             3)   SB 350 (de Léon), which is pending the Assembly Rules  
               Committee, would also increase the State's RPS from 33% to  
               50% by 2030. 



          ACR Solar International Corp. 

          California Product Stewardship Council

          Californians Against Waste

          Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority (dba RecycleSmart)

          Los Angeles County Solid Waste Management Committee / Integrated  
          waste Management Task Force

          Rural County Representatives of California

          Sierra Club California


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          Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

          Solar Energy Industries Association


          Solid Waste Association of North America


          None on file

          Analysis Prepared by:Paige Brokaw / E.S. & T.M. / (916)