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Circular Ceramics

A tableware collection made entirely of industrial waste by-products. Also includes a book outlining how ceramic producers of all scales can adopt these methods.

  • Bowl made from industrial waste by-products from the glass, stone and ceramics industry.

  • Password for video: sarahowardcsm

    Password for video: sarahowardcsm

  • Circular Ceramics book outing methods of reclaiming, processing and substituting waste materials.

  • Steps of processing waste materials. Excavation waste (left), stone (middle), glass (right).

  • Test tiles with varying ratios of industrial waste.

  • Series of vases made from industrial waste by-products.

What it does

Circular Ceramics is a tableware collection made entirely of reclaimed industrial waste by-products which aims to minimise the consumption of finite raw materials and divert waste away from landfill. I have also written a book outlining these methods.

Your inspiration

Our current ceramic manufacturing methods are far from circular as there is waste produced at almost every stage of production. Even when quarrying clay, 9 tonnes of waste is produced 1 tonnes of clay quarried. Many of the raw materials currently used for ceramic production are expected to run out in our lifetime, some materials have as little as 6 years left, based on current rates of consumption and known resources. This has already resulted in a volatility in price which has put pressure on ceramic manufacturers and soon they will come across another issue, that their materials are no longer available.

How it works

The tableware collection is made from waste from external industries that consume the same raw materials. This includes the glass, stone, construction and ceramics industry. Hazardous glass slurry, a by-product from glass edge polishing is used in ceramic glazes, as well as toxic stone cutting slurry. These materials would have otherwise been sent to landfill. Excavation waste from the construction industry, the biggest contributor to landfill, is used to make the clay body. Saturated and damaged plaster moulds in the ceramics industry, made using the mined raw material gypsum, are reclaimed to make new moulds.

Design process

I initially set out to design a circular economy within the ceramics industry. However, the process of firing ceramics changes the chemical compounds of the materials irreversibly, meaning it is impossible to revert a ceramic plate back into its original raw materials for reuse. This ultimately prevents us from closing the loop and designing a circular method of production within the industry. A viable solution was to design an industrial symbiosis around the ceramics industry where the waste material from one industry becomes a raw material in another, generating zero waste form production. Through in depth material investigation and examining more than 100 ceramic test tiles, I was able to produce a range of glazes made from ceramic waste. I was able to identify which waste material could substitute the typical virgin mined raw material used in ceramic production which makes it easy for any ceramicist to apply to their own work. For example; Glass slurry can substitute the silica and flux components in a ceramic glaze, stone offcuts can substitute the silicas and excavation waste can substitute the aluminas. A ceramists can choose how many components they substitute and build upon it which is an attractive quality of 'Circular Ceramics'.

How it is different

'Circular Ceramics' is an open source research project where by all the methods of reclaiming waste is accessible to everyone and can be applied at all scales of ceramic production, from studio potter to mass manufacturer. In addition, these solutions provide ecological and economic gains. My main focus is to create a systemic change at industrial level in order to create the maximum positive environmental impact. I am aware of many businesses using waste to produce products but I believe it is essential to challenge and tackle industries and provide them with sustainable solutions as ultimately they are responsible for the biggest impacts on our fragile ecologies. I believe I have the knowledge and ability to connect industries that are being put under increased pressure, and implement the material substitutions as listed above which would provide them with ecological and financial gains.

Future plans

I have a 5 step plan in implementing my methods globally. For this project to be successful on a mass scale I believe it is important to start small. This means working with small scale ceramic producers in order to provide a proof of concept to mass procures who may be more hesitant to adopt these methods. I will then begin to build relationships between large scale manufacturers and begin substituting in waste materials. The ultimate goal is to form an industrial symbiosis between multiple manufacturers. I am currently working with small scale manufacturers building up this community and have plans to work internationally in October.


In May 2020 this project won Wanted Deisgn's best student project 'conscious design' award for the sustainable solution category.

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