With the current climate urgency cited in the 2021 IPCC report, the manufacturing sector is at the forefront of change to rethink our practices.
Reducing the industry’s reliance on fossil fuels, recycling components and adopting more environmental design practices will be critical, as will insisting on a better way of working across the value chainWorld Economic Forum (2021)
Ceramics must not be any different. From supplier sourcing to last-mile delivery, all steps of our production processes must shift away from a linear production model to a more circular one where resources and processes are better reused, recycled, and rethought. The ceramic industry will be at the core of the world’s circular economy transition.
The value chain of the ceramics industry starts at the sourcing stage. We need to source raw materials, such as clay, feldspar, or plaster to machinery and packaging supplies. On top of safety and quality (think no heavy metals for glazing or unclean minerals), the sustainability tenet is forcing us to rethink where we are sourcing from too.
Ideally, we can source all our raw materials as close to our ceramic manufacturing site as we can in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions emitted during transportation. For example, in the European Union, “transport (including aviation and shipping) was responsible for 27 % of total greenhouse gas emissions“. As global trades increase in volume, ceramic companies in Asia are not spared from the pollution problem as we still need to source raw materials out of the country.
When we cannot source hyper-locally, at Minh Tien Ceramic, we try to prolong the life of our supplies or optimize each order for fewer materials wastage.
During the production process of ceramic stoneware, surplus and wastage happen at all stages. Whether it be polishing waste or overglazing, “[researchers] are exploring the use of recycled and waste materials as input streams, along with reducing firing temperatures and employing alternate technologies to natural gas kilns.”
Some of our reduction and recycling efforts at Minh Tien Ceramic and in other ceramic manufacturers include:
- Investing in gaz kilns since our company’s formation in 1994
- Recycling our ceramic raw materials (clay, polishing waste, glaze and plaster) during production
- Maintaining our imported machinery and replacing components instead of the whole machine
- Recycling our ceramic defects as slip incorporation after production
- Repurposing defects as a last resort (mosaics, filler) for other industries
- Setting up an outlet store for acceptable consumer defects
We let our customers have flexibility in their packaging choices. But export and online retail packaging as byproduct waste is becoming increasingly alarming. Ceramic products still need to come intact to the end consumers, as ceramic recycling to incorporate in production slip can have a larger carbon footprint. Hence, ceramic manufacturers need to protect their products during shipment with several layers (usually 2 to 6 layers of protection).
Our customers usually request plastic-based wraps inside individual boxes and/or cartons, in order to pass drop-testing procedures. But not all wrapping is necessary as those materials are usually harder – if not impossible – to recycle. Customers can take these simple steps to make their packaging less harmful to the environment:
- Switch from polyfoam to recycled paper and newspaper for the inner layer protection
- Eliminate individual packaging from master cartons
- Simplify packaging labelling and accessories (avoiding sticker and paper label; favoring single-color printing on cartons/boxes)
After the packaging is done, all cartons are usually transported to ports or centralized warehouses for final transportation out of the country and/or city. As a ceramic manufacturer, Minh Tien Ceramic tries to optimize all of our deliveries to be coordinated and less wasteful – both in human efforts and energy consumption.
There is no perfect answer, but we believe that little actions of improvement can add up to a greener ceramic value chain. Reducing our environmental footprint equals less wastage, better economic return, and overall better customer recognition. With over 25 years of operations, Minh Tien Ceramic is proud to be moving towards a more sustainable mindset in order to improve both our supply chain and our team’s quality of life.
Learn more about our values here and reach out to us for your ceramic projects!