It means thousands of old television and computer screens can now be reprocessed.
As the world switches over from bulky old fashioned televisions to the new generations of flat screen models we're being left with a major problem, lead. In just the first quarter of this year, 35-thousand tonnes of televisions and computers were sent for recycling in the UK. Each cathode ray tube can hold up to one kilo of poisonous lead, but now a Kent recycling plant claims to be the first in the world to solve the technical issue of separating the heavy metal from the glass.The furnace in Sittingbourne can now recycle four thousand televisions a day.
Huge numbers of obsolete television sets and computer monitors have been entering the waste stream, a figure which has been estimated to peak in Europe in 2013. Across the world, electronics recycling programmes are collecting growing quantities of CRTs, while at the same time the end uses for recycled CRT glass, which generally constitutes between 15 kg and 30 kg per set, are disappearing.
Additionally, there is often insufficient value in CRT glass to economically support its shipment to facilities which are mostly located in Asia, where it can be used to make new CRT glass or other leaded-glass applications. As a result it is often discarded or dumped in places where lead may leach into soil and groundwater.
"Our industry is at an interesting crossroads when it comes to CRT glass," explains Robert Erie, CEO of E-World Online, which runs a nationwide network of collectors and recyclers in the U.S. to help consumer electronics manufacturers comply with the extended producer responsibility guidelines being enacted in many states. "In my 12 years in the electronics recycling field, this is the first time that I've seen an e-waste material stream become obsolete and markets dry up so quickly."
In recognition of the problem, the most recent update to the Sanctioned Interpretations of the e-Stewards Standard - a third party certification programme for electronics recyclers run by the Basal Action Network (BAN) - makes allowances for its members to store CRT glass beyond 12 months, until acceptable destinations are available - providing certain criteria are met.
The challenge:According to the U.S. Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) many U.S. recyclers have growing stockpiles of CRT glass, and to date no truly feasible market for it has emerged. In the U.S. alone several hundred million kilos of CRT glass will be collected for recycling in 2012. In California this issue has resulted in a proposal to allow landfilling of the units. In a bid to find solutions to the problem, late last year the CEA laid down an Eco-Challenge to develop compelling economic and environmentally preferable solutions for recycling CRTs. This was in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a non-profit environmental organisation and InnoCentive, a specialist in 'crowdsourcing' and open innovation.
One of the entrants for the challenge, and one of the eventual winners, was Manchester, UK based Nulife Glass, which has developed a solution to separate the lead from leaded CRT glass using a highly efficient electric furnace and a combination of chemicals to produce both clean glass and lead. According to the company, the process has no emissions, creates no waste and avoids the export of hazardous material around the globe.
Speaking to Waste Management World, Simon Greer, director of Nulife Glass and inventor of the process explains that the "Eureka" moment came in 2001, when, using a combination of heat and chemistry, he managed to squeeze a tiny amount of lead out of glass using a furnace and realised what the chemical formula was to do it. He then set about refining the process through trial and error with the construction of a number of small furnaces.
"I predicted for the past five or six years that the day will come when there will be no recycling of glass back into TVs. It was not a fantastic revelation. It was blatantly obvious that that would be the case. The price of panel TVs would fall and on that basis the CRT would end. So we've carried on doing what we're doing with the confidence of knowing that day would come. And it has come crashing all at the same time. There are increasing numbers of TVs coming into the waste stream, and diminishing outlets," explains Greer.
The first stage in Nulife's process is to separate the panel glass from the leaded glass, which is crushed and treated with chemicals to assist the lead extraction. The process utilises a specially designed electrolytic converter where the CRT glass and process chemicals are melted under strictly controlled conditions to free metallic lead from the glass, which is tapped off to form lead ingots. The process is continuous and has the capacity to handle 10 tonnes per day - equivalent to around 60 tonnes of end-of-life CRT televisions.
To increase energy efficiency, the process utilises super-efficient insulation so that while the temperature inside the main melting unit is in excess of 1000°C, the outside never exceeds 60°C. In addition to being energy efficient, the converter has negligible emissions, meaning that there is no requirement for expensive extraction and filtration systems.
According to Greer the process uses around $0.50 worth of electricity for each TV treated and recovers around $2 worth of lead, as well as clean glass. The glass, which has End of Waste approval from the Environment Agency in the UK, is of relatively low value and is being used by construction materials company, Tarmac, which is adding a small percentage to concrete blocks. The lead is sold to lead dealers at a price based on London Metal Exchange (LME) prices.
The company built its first furnace at its own premises, and is currently in the process of building another for electronics recycler, SWEEEP Kuusakoski at its site in Kent, UK. The recycling company is collaborating with Nulife Glass and its partner company, Kuusakoski Oy of Finland in refining the system's features and tailoring the furnace to its exact needs. SWEEEP has also developed new crushing and separation equipment to be ready in time for the new furnace.
SWEEEP Kuusakoski, a Kent, U.K.-based waste electrical and electronics recycling company, has invested £2 million to develop what it says is the world’s first commercial scale glass furnace, allowing the company to recover lead and pure glass from the leaded cathode ray tube (CRT) glass in old televisions and computer screens.
Sweeep Kuusakoski is recycling glass from more than 4,000 cathode ray TVs each day, and recovering up to 1kg (2.2lb) of lead from each set.
The leaded glass tubes were previously re-used in the production of new TV sets by firms in Malaysia.
But, after global demand for cathode ray TVs dried up, the firms re-using them closed leaving the glass unusable.
Sweeep Kuusakoski, in Sittingbourne, worked with a British inventor, Simon Greer, to build what it claims is the first furnace capable of extracting lead from the glass tubes to produce pure lead ingots and inert glass.
The official grand opening of the furnace was Nov. 30, 2012. Taking part in the opening ceremony were Right Honorable Michael Fallon, MP and Minister of State for Business & Enterprise. He was joined by Pekka Huhtaniemi, the Finnish Ambassador to Great Britain; and Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne & Sheppey. Other attendees at the ceremony included representatives from the recycling industry and local authorities, as well as the SWEEEP Kuusakoski’s senior management.
Speaking at the opening, Fallon, said, “SWEEEP Kuusakoski’s new furnace will help tackle the growing global recycling problem of how to recycle old televisions and computer screens.
The glass is heated to 1000C to allow the lead to be separated.
A Sweeep spokeswoman said: "It is the only solution available as we stand today. In five years no one else has come up with anything else.
"All over Europe, and the US glass stocks are piling up."
The furnace heats up the glass to over 1,000C.
Mr Greer said: "At that temperature we can chemically separate the lead from the glass and get the lead to fall from the bottom of the furnace and let the glass to continue on its journey.
"The glass is now good for turning into aggregates for road use. You wouldn't want to make drinking glasses out of it, but it's not hazardous any more."
Much of the recycled lead is used for car batteries.
Justin Greenaway, of Sweeep Kuusakoski, said: "Out of every waste TV we get 1 kg of lead. It's a valuable rare-earth commodity which would otherwise have had to have been dug up."
About 2 tonnes of lead are extracted each day by the Sittingbourne plant, fetching £1,300 per tonne.
The company employs about 200 people, including 18 from Thamesteel on Sheppey which went into administration in January with the loss of 350 jobs.
The company says it has gained end-of-waste status from the Environment Agency on the cleaned x-ray sorted panel glass. It also has successfully established sustainable markets for the recovered lead, the front of screen glass, and the leaded glass from the rear of the screens that is generated in the recycling process.
The company has now begun negotiations to build a furnace in the United States.
I WOULD LIKE TO USE THIS FURNACE FOR OTHER FLAT CRAP THINGS !!!!!!!!!!!!