They were big boxy things with slightly curved screen and not particularly great picture quality. They were cathode rays after all. But with time and technology marching on, cathode ray TVs are all but defunct. And since the inside of the glass tube is coated with lead, it begs the question: What’s being done with the growing mountain when they get tossed out for their flat screen, 3D, HD LCD replacements?
Then and now
Where firms in Malaysia would refurbish the tubes to be placed in new TV sets, global demand for cathode ray TVs has all but dried up, leaving the glass unusable. Consequently, Sweeep Kuusakoski, a firm in the UK, has developed a method for is recycling the throw-away.
Using intense temperature of 1 000 degrees Celsius, the glass separates from the lead yielding pure lead ingots and inert glass. The company recycles glass from more than 4 000 cathode ray TVs each day and recovers up to 1kg of lead from each set, although the average day is 2 tonnes of lead.
Waste in, rare earth out
British inventor Simon Greer says glass stocks are piling up all over the world, but by using this technique, “The glass is now good for turning into aggregates for road use. It’s not hazardous anymore, but you wouldn’t want to make drinking glasses out of it,” he explains. Much of the recycled lead is then used for car batteries.
Given that lead is a rare-earth commodity that can fetch approximately $2 000 per tonne, this recycling method supplements the supply that would otherwise have to be dug up.
The company currently employs 200 people, and has entered into negotiations to open a furnace in the US.