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The Way One Designer is Using Recycled Computers

The rise of one technology usually leads to the demise of another.

The rise of flat-panel technology is no exception. From televisions to tablets to laptops, flat screens have become standard for nearly any new device. However, the rise of the flat-panel has made CRT technology obsolete.

CRT technology

Image source: www.kickstarter.com

CRT stands for cathode ray tube. You may know CRT better as the slightly curved glass screens that were used in old computer monitors and tube televisions. The screens were specially manufactured from lead glass to prevent shattering and to block X-ray emissions. As consumers have flocked to newer flat-panel devices, old CRT televisions and computer monitors have largely ended up in landfills and recycling plants. That’s created a electronic waste problem. While many parts of a computer or television can be recycled into new products, CRT glass waste can only be recycled into CRT glass. Since there’s nearly no demand for products with CRT technology, there’s little use for recycled CRT glass. Many recyclers have resigned to the fact that CRT glass just can’t be recycled.

However, one designer is working with an electronics recycler to find a useful second life for the glass. Paul Burns, founder of Fireclay Tile in San Jose, is using the glass to produce tiles. Burns said he first considered the idea three years ago. He said he wondered what was happening with all of the televisions and computers that consumers were throwing away. He found that much of it was sitting in landfills. According to Burns, CRT glass alone accounts for 860 million pounds of waste in the United States.

He spent the next three years experimenting with ways to transform CRT glass into decorative tiles. The result is Phosphor, a line of tiles that are produced 100 percent from post-consumer CRT glass. The tiles are available in 2×8, 2×4 and penny-size. The tiles aren’t colored – rather, they retain the monitor’s natural gray shade. They are available for indoor or outdoor use and Burns is pitching them as the perfect design element for an environmentally-friendly home remodel.

Fireclay is currently working with a local electronics recycler to separate the CRT glass from the electronic devices. They also launched a Kickstarter campaign late last year to fund an expansion of the line. According to Burns, the production process requires hundreds of custom molds, which is what will be purchased with the funds from the campaign.

Electronic waste is a growing concern. According to the EPA, electronic waste accounts for nearly 70 percent of the toxic metals in American landfills.

Using an R2-certified electronics recycler is the most environmentally-responsible way to dispose of an electronics device. An R2-certified recycler adheres to rigid environmental regulations and works with companies like Fireclay to find productive second lives for the devices parts.

Old TV's into Tiles

Image source: www.kickstarter.com

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