For years, electronics recyclers have had one big problem: CRT glass. That’s the glass used in the displays of old televisions and computers, and it’s really difficult to dispose of. In the past, glass-to-glass recycling was common practice, and old CRT displays were simply recycled to make new CRT displays. Now, though, cathode ray tubes have been replaced by LCD and plasma displays, so there’s no longer a simple way to recycle the CRT glass that’s loaded with lead and other toxics.

The CRT Stockpile

With practically no demand for CRT glass, e-cyclers are piling up great stores of the stuff at an incredible rate. Statistics published by the Electronics Takeback Coalition indicate that in 2012, there was a national stockpile of CRT glass that added up to about 860 million pounds — that’s a lot of toxic waste with nowhere to go!

This year the growing stockpile of CRT glass will take center stage  at the annual E-Scrap Conference and Trade Show, October 21 – 23 in Orlando, Florida. A special session at the conference will present the winner of the annual CRT Challenge and feature the award-winning proposal for more successful processing of CRT glass.

The Innovators

We’ve already taken notice of the innovative work in CRT glass recycling that’s being done by the Nulife company in the UK and now in New York. But Nulife isn’t the only company making creative inroads in that frightening CRT stockpile. E-cyclers in the U.S. and all over the globe are excited about several recent projects gaining success. Here are two projects creating a buzz in the e-cycling world:

In California, a company called FireClay is making ceramic tiles out of recycled CRT glass. The tiles come in a huge assortment of colors and designs, and can be used for anything from kitchen backsplashes to tiled staircases. For an idea of the beautiful effects they’re achieving with these unique tiles, take a look at their inspiration gallery.

ŸOn a much larger scale, there’s an ongoing collaborative project between American Retrowork/Good Point Recycling of Vermont and Retroworks de Mexico showing a great deal of promise. The project, called the Fundente Production Partnership, began in 2009. They’re using the leaded silicate in CRT glass as a component of the smelting process for copper, zinc and gold. The American-Mexican partnership has gotten a lot of press recently, and their proposal was a finalist at the National Recycling Innovators Forum held just a few weeks ago in New Orleans.

Innovations like these, while promising, are just the beginning. The challenge of finding safe and profitable ways to recycle CRT glass is huge, and large-scale solutions are still needed. We look forward to seeing what other potential solutions come out of this year’s E-Scrap Conference — and of course, we’ll keep you posted.