A San Jose, Calif.-based ceramic tile company that’s previously worked magic on volcanic lava, trashed toilets, and waste glass from the solar industry is now looking to transform that dying dinosaur that may still be lurking in the corner of your living room, the cathode ray tube (CRT) television, into a new consumer product.
As the bulky yet loveable relics known as CRT TVs continue to be phased out and replaced with flat-screen LCD and plasma models, shatter-resistant, hard-to-recycle CRT glass panels has inundated American waste streams. In fact, CRTs, both TV sets and old computer monitors, comprise 60 percent of e-waste recycling programs and account for 860 million pounds of waste. I parted with my own CRT TV much more recently than I’d like to admit (let’s just say it was closer to 2 years than 10 years ago) and I found that unlike most “big ticket” cast-off items that I offer up to New York City’s gods of curbside freecycling, no dutiful urban scavengers wanted to rescue my hulking old Philips and give it a loving new home. They've become that obsolete.
This is where the sustainability-minded, scavenge-happy folks at Fireclay Tile come in. The company, a tile-producing pioneer in the realm of post-consumer recycled materials, has partnered with local e-recycler ECS Refining to rescue CRT panels from junked TVs and monitors. The partnership came about after Fireclay founder Paul Burns experienced an e-waste revelation: "About two or three years ago my business partner replaced all our old computers, and I started to wonder, what happens to all those old monitors. Well, I found out they’re piled up all over the place. I decided, why don’t I try to make tile out of this old computer screen."
After ESC removes the panels from the models, Fireclay embarks on a “multi-step crushing process” to produce particles that are small enough to melt when exposed to heat. Next, the glass is sorted and a touch of color is added to the naturally dark particles. The resulting tile is a grey-ish tone dubbed by Fireclay as Phosphor.

Intrigued? Fireclay needs your help in purchasing much-needed molds (each tile requires its own high-quality mold) for the new venture and has taken to Kickstarter to help raise funds. I suppose folks are really into the idea of transforming TVs into tiles as Fireclay’s initial goal of $10,000 has already been successfully met with more than 20 days of the crowdfunding campaign left to go.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t still help chip in and score yourself some CRT-based goodies (just in time for holiday gift-giving!). A pledge of $35 will get you a set of 4 lovely, minimalist drink coasters made from recycled CRT glass while $60 will get you two sets of coasters. Big(ger) spenders — pledges starting at $175 — will be rewarded with backsplashes made from CRT glass tile. The size of the backsplash depends on the pledge level. The tiles themselves — availabe in 2x8, 2x4, and penny round mosaic sizes —will be suitable for both indoor and outdoor residential applications.

Head on over to Fireclay’s CRT glass campaign page to learn more and to pre-order some pretty nifty coasters (or more). It's also worth checking out the company's mighty informative website itself where you can read up on the company’s impressive sustainability efforts and also indulge in some mighty pretty eco-backsplash porn.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

California tile company is turning boxy TVs into kitchen backsplashes
The scavenge-happy folks at Fireclay Tile launch a Kickstarter campaign to help transform old CRT TVs and computer monitors into stunning glass tiles.