Fireclay Tile turns high-tech trash – namely, cathode ray tube (CRT) – into tiles

San Francisco-based Fireclay Tile is once again reinventing how traditional tile is manufactured, breathing new life into an obsolete technology. As the bulky yet lovable relics known as cathode ray tube (CRT) television and computer monitors continue to be switched out and replaced with flat-screen LCDs, hard-to-recycle CRT glass has flooded American waste streams, accounting for 860-million pounds of waste.

Fireclay Tile is debuting its latest sustainable tile design, recycled CRT glass tile. Fireclay Tile hates waste and loves efficiency. Paul Burns, the founder and chief ceramicist of Fireclay Tile, describes himself as more of a scavenger than a die-hard environmentalist. Since founding Fireclay, he has been a pioneer in the ceramic tile industry, coming up with numerous inventions, being one of the first to incorporate recycled materials in his tile products.

Says Burns, ”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?”

CRT or cathode ray Tube glass was developed to create a way for projecting images onto a screen. The technology behind CRT glass required that the glass be exceptionally thick and shatter resistant. CRTs are considered to be one of the hardest types of electronic waste to recycle. CRT glass can be recycled into more CRT glass, but with rapid technological advancements and declining price tags for LCD and plasma displays there is no longer a viable use for CRT glass.

Fireclay Tile works with local electronics waste recycling company, ESC Refining in Santa Clara, California. The company runs the glass through a saw to separate the front, middle and back sections, which contain heavy metals and lead. Fireclay is not just smashing up old television sets, there are toxicology concerns: the company requires a very detailed chemical analysis of the glass to know exactly what’s there and that it’s safe. Fireclay then crushes the chunks of the front part of the screen and demagnetize the material, at which point the multi-step crushing process begins that ultimately produces glass particles small enough to melt when exposed to heat. After the glass is sorted, the company casts the tiles in the molds, and adds white colour pigment to lighten the natural CRT glass, achieving a lighter grey colour suitably named Phosphor.

Fireclay Tile makes the molds from a refractory material that can withstand high heat and be used over and over again. Making its own molds allows Fireclay to change the shape and size of the tiles in the future. The material can handle temperatures of 1,600 to 1,700 degrees F, and they cycle in and out of the ovens two or three times a day and last about a year.

The new CRT tile is available in a 2×8, 2×4, and penny round mosaic sizes. The tile is made for stunning and dramatic indoor or outdoor residential applications, while also being engineered for the rigors of a commercial job site.


Fireclay was founded in 1986 by Paul Burns, its chief ceramicist, whose mission was to make beautiful handmade high-quality tile for people, when they want it, the way they want it. Fireclay Tile offers ceramic and glass tile materials that are unique, affordable, and sustainable. Using locally sourced and recycled materials, Fireclay utilizes time-honored techniques and modern technology to create 100 per cent of its own product. Fireclay’s client list includes Whole Foods, Starbucks and Google. All product lines contribute to achieving LEED credits.

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