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Issue 35
April , 2012
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CEA, Environmental Defense Fund tackle CRT glass

Jake Thomas
Source: Resource Recycling, Date: March , 2012

In response to the growing volume of unwanted CRT monitors, TVs and displays piling up around the country, the Consumer Electronics Association, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, has released the results of a crowd-sourced initiative meant to find solutions for the obsolete items.

In November, the two organizations put out a call for submissions for potential end uses for CRT glass, along with the promise of cash prizes for the best ideas. Many state laws restrict how CRT glass can be disposed of and, when coupled with limited demand for it as a recycling feedstock, the volume of excess material being stockpiled continues to grow rapidly.

The project used InnoCentive, a crowd-sourcing organization that uses prizes to encourage innovators to produce solutions to problems plaguing business and government. In the past, the group has helped develop solutions for oil spills, lighting in African villages, tuberculosis treatments and others. The project is part of a broader initiative from the EDF and InnoCentive to solve environmental problems.

Motivated by prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, more than 350 people submitted ideas to the contest on what to do with the lead-heavy glass. Three winners were selected:

    Mario Rosato, an environmental engineer from Spain who has won four previous InnoCentive Challenges — all related to environmental issues. Rosato 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., a company based in Manchester, England, proposed a solution that utilizes an energy efficient electrically heated furnace, uniquely designed to produce minimal emissions.

    Robert Kirby, a mechanical engineer from New Mexico, 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.

Hoping to increase public awareness of the issue, while boosting market demand for used CRT glass, the CEA plans to make these solutions available to the public at www.ce.org. The CEA holds no rights to the winning submissions and encourages recycling companies awash in CRT glass to consider using them.

According to Walter Alcorn, CEA vice president for environmental affairs and industry sustainability, the idea for the project came from discussions his organization had with the EDF regarding challenges facing the electronics industry.

"We're concerned about what to do with good, viable CRT glass and this is part of our e-cycling initiative to increase consumer recycling of electronics and educate consumers about electronics recycling issues," says Alcorn.

He adds that the CEA paid for the project, which is connected to a broader strategy by the trade association to push the annual electronics recycling volume over one billion pounds by 2016.
"Our industry is connected to recycling," he says. "And for recycling to work there has to be uses for the recycled materials."

In an email to E-Scrap News, Jeff Hunts, manager of the state of California's electronic waste recycling program, said that the project was welcome, given the large back-log of CRT glass and the uncertainty over what to do with it.

"California's e-waste recycling efforts alone generated nearly 100 million pounds of CRTs and CRT glass in 2011," he wrote. "We desperately need viable alternatives to reclaim this resource, preferably ones that can be developed domestically."

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