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A sustainable future for ceramic, from the start

THERE’s no escaping the fact that manufacturing ceramic products requires resources.
The raw materials, the gas that fires the furnaces, process water, packaging and transport are all factors that impact the environment. For any manufacturer to be sustainable, each of these inputs need to be considered from an ecological point of view – for Ceramic Industries, that’s a process that started many years ago.

The locally-based producer has been investing heavily in energy-efficient, world-class technology and homegrown innovation since it’s very first tile run in 1976. In the past decade, that investment has ramped up considerably – and it’s not stopping.

One recent in-house innovation that has made a major difference to raw material usage, energy consumption and transportation emissions is the EcoTec tile. Engineers developed a process to make ceramic tiles using 10% less clay, but without a compromise on tile strength. Less energy is needed to fire the tiles, and when they leave the factory, they’re lighter to transport, reducing CO2 emissions.

Energy consumption is something manufacturers must focus on constantly, and Ceramic Industries has tackled it from various directions. Their large factory spaces and warehouses offer plenty of real estate for solar panels, and in just the last year they’ve added more generation capacity to four of these sites, with more planned for the year ahead.

Even their buildings conform to sustainability goals, designed to make use of natural light wherever possible.

Ceramic Industries employs heat-recovery systems that capture hot air from their kilns for use in the dryers, reducing their natural gas consumption. To optimise efficiency, an IoT-based platform (‘internet of things’ – a network of devices that share data with each other) was recently introduced to monitor heat recovery uptime and downtime.

In our water-stressed country, water management is another vital issue. Ceramic Industries has tapped borehole water on their premises but also realise the importance of managing this precious resource.

They track consumption and recycle, operating their own water treatment facilities at factories in Vereeniging and Hammanskraal.

Besides water, Ceramic Industries recycles a host of other materials.

The clay to make their tiles is recovered and reused in manufacture, with some of the newer machinery able to recover nearly 100% of the material. Wooden pallets in the warehouse are recycled, and all their packaging is made from recycled materials.

Perhaps one final example sums up their attitude to the environment. The source of their operations are the quarries where they obtain their raw materials. Here, the company makes sure that as the sites are mined, they’re concurrently rehabilitated, with the aim of fully restoring them at the end of their lives.

Ceramic Industries is clearly a company that takes its environmental responsibility seriously, with a commitment to minimise their impact – from start to finish.

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