The challenge of CRT glass recycling

Most American households have at least one older style Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) television or computer monitor somewhere in the home, basement or garage. With an estimated 180 million obsolete electronic products stored in American homes, it’s fair to say that a good proportion of those materials sitting about are CRTs.

CRTs are tricky to handle – they’re heavy, they’re bulky and from a recycling standpoint, there isn’t much value in them when compared to, say, a pile of old mobile phones or laptops of similar weight.

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“The CRT landscape is a kaleidoscope,” says Jim Levine, President of Regency Technologies in Cleveland. “The situation is fluid and can look very different depending on your vantage point. It’s a very visible and polarizing topic that has become a “symbol” of our industry– these products are big, they’re bulky and everyone is looking for solutions.”

CRT units are first dismantled, and any wiring, metal housings, plastics and circuit boards are set aside for further recycling. Whole CRT Tubes are moved on for further recycling.

The most popular recycling use for CRT glass was making it into new CRT glass, a solution known as glass-to-glass recycling. However, as new technologies like plasma, LCD, LED and 3-D displays take hold in the marketplace, demand for old CRT glass is drying up. Indeed, many of the companies that used to recycle CRT glass in the U.S. have closed shop. That has led recyclers to seek creative solutions to the problem, in methods akin to a modern-day alchemy.

“Everyone is looking for the golden solution to the problem,” Levine says. Levine’s company, Regency Technologies, signed an agreement with Dlubak Glass Company in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, the largest of the American recyclers of CRT glass, to introduce new strategies for handling the material.

Regency has a site on Dlubak’s campus, where Regency’s 50 employees demanufacture the collected CRT units and harvest the recyclable plastic, wires and metals. The glass moves down a conveyor belt, through a partition to Dlubak’s side of the facility where CRT glass is separated via a proprietary cutting process and prepared as furnace ready cullet for a wide array of finished products, serving many industries right here in North America.

“While a lot of the focus for recycling CRT glass is on compliance and regulation, it’s economics that prevent many companies from recycling the material. There are domestic solutions available right now and right here in the U.S., but many are choosing to store material with the hope that a solution might come along that does not carry a significant cost. This is a risky game to play and it goes against all of the basic tenets of recycling that our industry is trying so desperately to adhere to.”

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  1. Inside an electronics recycling and reuse facility « escrapbeat

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