2015 AZ Awards Winner: Best Interior Product

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Fireclay Tile of San Francisco recycles burned-out TVs into bright new tile.

Crowd sourcing has launched some ingenious products over the years. One example is CRT Glass tiles, made from old television sets and computer monitors, when cathode ray tube technology reigned. With advances in liquid crystal displays over the past decade, CRTs have drifted into oblivion – except that the harmful waste they leave behind is difficult to dispose of. For the most part, the material is exported, dumped into landfills, or stored in warehouses, where it sits waiting for recycling methods to develop.

Paul Burns, a lifelong ceramicist who runs Fireclay Tile in San Francisco, set out to turn the grey glass into something useful. He spent years working out a process in which the top layer of the screen is shaved off, demagnetized, crushed into particles tiny enough to be melted, then handcrafted into brilliant, luminescent tiles with soft, pillowed edges.

In 2013, he embarked on a Kickstarter campaign and raised over US$16,000, enough to launch the tiles on the market and recycle an average of 13 devices into every 4.6 square metres of product surface. While that may be a drop in the bucket compared with the available raw material (there is some 390,000 cubic tons of CRT glass in the U.S. alone), Burns is proving that end users exist for even products derived from toxic man-made materials.

Available in three sizes – including 1.25-inch rounds, ideal for corners and curves – the tiles are stain- and frostproof, so they can be used indoors and out, or as flooring in a matte finish. For now, CRT Glass tiles are sold in their “natural” light grey, but Burns is experimenting with other hues.

About the designer: Ceramicist Paul Burns studied life sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, before founding Fireclay Tile in 1986. While the company’s focus is on design and aesthetics, Burns constantly experiments with incorporating recycled materials into his hand-made products. 

What the jury said: This is a great example of how recycling can create a decorative yet minimal product.” – Philippe Malouin

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