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As Demand for Recycled Cathode Ray Tubes Drops, Industry Groups Seek New Uses for CRT Glass

Over the coming years, more than two billion pounds, or a thousand tons, of legacy cathode ray tube (CRT) glass TVs and monitors are expected to enter the recycling stream. With that in mind, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) have announced a technical CRT Challenge — with a $10,000 prize — in the hopes of identifying financially viable, environmentally-conscious proposals for using recycled cathode CRT glass.

As CRT technology has been displaced in the market by liquid crystal display (LCD), light-emitting diode (LED) and plasma displays, the consumer electronics and recycling industries are working to find inventive and creative new ways to recycle old CRT glass. And with demand for old CRT glass to make new CRT glass waning, there is an increased need for new environmentally-sound, economically sustainable uses for this material, according to the groups.

For many years, CRTs were the technology of choice in the display industry, used in everything from television and computer screens to diagnostic equipment displays. In recent years, demand for CRTs has dropped drastically as newer LCD, LED, and plasma technologies, which are more compact and use less energy, have become more affordable and widely available. As new CRT displays were the primary destination for recovered CRT glass, the end-use markets for CRT glass have decreased considerably.

“The CRT challenge is a crowd-sourced technical competition to find new uses for old CRT glass,” says Walter Alcorn, vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability, CEA, adding that the challenge has the potential to uncover new, innovative electronics recycling.

CEA and ISRI will accept submissions for the CRT Challenge until June 30, 2013. The winning solution will be chosen based on economic and environmental benefits, and CEA will award $10,000 to the winner. CEA and ISRI will publicize and share solution(s) with manufacturers, retailers and recyclers, and encourage implementation.

CEA issued its first CRT Challenge in 2011 and it yielded three winners: Mario Rosato, who proposed a closed-loop process for separating the lead from the glass in a form with high market value for a variety of industries; Nulife Glass Processing Ltd, which proposed a solution that utilizes an extremely energy efficient electrically heated furnace, uniquely designed to produce minimal emissions; and Robert Kirbym who submitted an idea for combining CRT glass with cement to create tile and bricks that are tested, labeled and sold specifically for applications where lead shielding is required, such as X-ray and fluoroscopy rooms.

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