Sittingbourne firm finds solution to recycling TVs

Sweeep Kuusakoski furnace in Sittingbourne
Image caption The glass is heated to 1000C to allow the lead to be separated

A Kent firm has found a way of tackling the growing mountain of unrecyclable leaded glass from old-style TVs.

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.

'Only solution'

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."

'Valuable commodity'

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 has now begun negotiations to build a furnace in the United States.

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