As renewable use rises, recycling renewable waste becoming more urgent
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The blades on massive wind turbines can be as long as a football field and as strong as a linebacker.
“They are designed not to break,” Julie Angulo told CBS News. “So, when your job is to break them, obviously it’s tough.”
Angulo’s company, Veolia, stores windmill blades at a quarry in the Missouri city of Louisiana, before it cuts used blades down to size and shreds them.
Cement makers use the shredded windmill blades as fuel instead of burning coal, cutting planet warming carbon emissions at the cement plant by nearly 30%.
What happens to windmill blades that aren’t recycled?
“What would, or what does happen, unfortunately, a lot of those end up in landfill,” Angulo said.
Most used windmill blades are buried in the ground because it’s cheaper, a black eye for green energy. By 2050, the world’s wind industry is expected to produce more than 47 million tons of blade waste each year, according to a University of Cambridge study.
Finding ways to recycle windmill blades and used solar panels is energizing the industry. One solar panel recycling plant in Yuma, Arizona, can process 7,500 panels a day. Solar is the fastest-growing source of energy in the U.S. Panels can last for 25 to 30 years, but more than 90% of used panels end up in landfills.
“There was no planning to handle the waste,” said Adam Saghei with We Recycle Solar. “It was just going to dumpsters, and you’re just creating a bigger problem that doesn’t need to be there.”
But with a tsunami of renewable waste coming, recyclers are ramping up to ride the wave.