It’s been some time now since those bulky old television sets became a thing of the past. In recent years, they have disappeared from many homes and been placed by ultra-flat screens. However, can our old TVs have a second life?
Although getting rid of old cathode ray tube (CRT) sets isn’t as simple as just buying a new TV and taking the old one to your waste recycling point: these old devices pose important environmental challenges due to their high lead content, and this clashes with the sustainability plans set out by the different administrations.
“Although this kind of waste matter is being reduced each year, there are still thousands of tons of CRT devices that have yet to be recycled. It’s estimated that, worldwide, only about 26% of this kind of material is recycled, and the remaining is dumped at places where it cannot be treated,” according to the introduction to the study published in 2020 by a team of researchers from the University of Córdoba, led by professor Francisco Agrela Sáinz.
This research specifically tries to answer this environmental problem by studying the viability of combining CRT glass waste with dry mixed recycling (DMR) treatment (ground-up material that contains plaster, metal pieces, wood and paper, among other things). This mix is then used in construction jobs, including building new roads, by using the materials of old televisions.
Over the past decade, several studies have examined the possibility of reusing recycled aggregate concrete (RCA) and mixed recycled aggregates (MRA) to obtain a viable application of waste material from demolished buildings.
“The aim of this study is to investigate the chances of applying MRA with CRT waste in a reduced percentage so as to avoid the possibility of leaching contaminating elements. In other words, the contaminating elements of the tubes being liberated when changing from solid to liquid,” Agrela Sáinz explains.
To that end, there were several studies about mixing waste MRA and CRT materials in different proportions, while observing both the mechanical behavior of the resulting substance as well as its potential as a contaminating agent.
The results were quite satisfactory, to judge from the principal conclusion: the combination of MRA and the cathode ray tubes in a certain proportion yields a material that can be used as the base and sub-base for road pavement, and would be especially indicated on roads with little traffic.
“The results show that the use of cathode ray tubes as a 10% aggregate achieved satisfactory levels of resistance to compression and bearing capacity.”
And most important: at a very low environmental cost because the MRA are capable of neutralizing the concentration of contaminating metals in the cathode ray tubes when they are mixed in.
So now you know: maybe within a short time your car and you will drive over a road that’s been built from your old TV set.