E-Scrap News

Videocon shuts down furnaces – and stokes concerns

The world’s only remaining glass-to-glass recycling outlet for CRTs has idled its panel and funnel furnaces in Bharuch, India for “heavy maintenance” and stopped taking CRT glass from its U.S. partner, Cali Resources, E-Scrap News has learned.

The president of Cali Resources said any glass that would traditionally head to India is being processed in Mexico for a construction-products venture between Cali Resources and its partners.

Videocon, which has relied on its glass-to-glass operation to manufacture new CRT TVs for the Indian marketplace and elsewhere, is among the largest downstream outlets for U.S. CRT glass. Last year, the company expected to consume 108,000 tons of CRT glass from the U.S. and told E-Scrap News in January it would continue to do so for the next three years.

With both the panel and funnel glass furnaces down since at least the middle of the summer and no clear timetable on when activity will start up again, the implications for the many American companies and state electronics recycling programs that rely on Videocon could be severe.

Idling furnaces

E-Scrap News first learned of the furnace stoppage through a records request filed in September with the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) in California.

In complying with the California Public Records Act request, regulators handed over a selection of documents concerning the operational status of Videocon.

In addition to a handful of emails from brokers and processors notifying state regulators that both furnaces had temporarily shut down, requiring California companies to route glass elsewhere, E-Scrap News obtained a letter from Videocon on the developing situation, dated Aug. 21 and signed by M A Jadeja, an employee of the company’s glass division in Bharuch.

“We have been performing heavy maintenance on our furnaces and cullet equipment. … It is hoped that we can resume business as usual once the equipment is deemed safe and operational,” the letter states.

At the time, the company said it was continuing to take CRT glass from the U.S. at limited volumes. But E-Scrap News has learned Videocon now is no longer receiving any CRT glass from its key U.S. supplier, Cali Resources.

Carlos Kelvin, the president of Cali Resources, which supplies Videocon with U.S. CRT glass through a partnership with Glassico and Technologies Displays Mexicana in Mexico, told E-Scrap News that his company has recently been “asked to stop shipping [to Videocon] until further notice.”

According to Kelvin, the company continues to receive some U.S. CRT glass but none of it currently heads to India. Instead, Cali Resources, working alongside its Mexican partners, is investing in a new CRT project related to construction products, he said.

“We expect that once maintenance on equipment is performed [in India], we will resume back to full capacity,” Kelvin said. “In the event this does not happen we have already invested heavily in equipment as a contingency plan. The details cannot be disclosed due to the proprietary nature [of the project], but we have run samples and made other usable products with viable markets,” Kelvin stated.

At press time, Videocon had not returned numerous requests for comment.

Truncated flows

While E-Scrap News is continuing to investigate the impacts of this slowdown throughout the country, an analysis of data from California obtained via the records request indicates shipments to Videocon by participants of the state’s e-scrap program began trailing off in July.

After sending an average of 4.9 million pounds of CRT glass per month to Videocon during the first half of the year, California recycling companies sent just 3.3 million pounds there in July and only 2.4 million pounds in August, state data show.

In addition, overall monthly glass shipments downstream have been cut dramatically in the same timespan. After averaging about 8.2 million pounds halfway through 2015, that total dropped to 6.8 million pounds in July and just 2.6 million pounds in August.

Last month, responding to concerns about downstream outlets for California glass, CalRecycle permitted firms to send CRT funnel glass to hazardous waste landfills in the state.

Jeff Hunts, the manager of California’s electronics recycling program, commented on Videocon’s furnace idling in an interview with E-Scrap News.

“With Videocon potentially not being an ultimate disposition, it’s very significant in that California recyclers who generate CRT glass need to find an alternative disposition,” Hunts said. “In the context of known recycling pathways, those options are very limited.”

Hunts said resorting to the hazardous waste disposal option could help, but thus far no company has reported doing so in the state. He said some companies may be holding onto glass in the absence of an established downstream vendor, which would explain why overall glass shipments in August were down by about 70 percent.

In addition, Hunts noted some of Videocon’s longtime CRT suppliers would likely be surprised by the recent developments.

“It will be news to those recyclers to find out that the glass is not going on to Videocon,” Hunts said. “They’re going to be scrambling to find out who their options are now.”

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