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Earth Tatva

Recycled Ceramics

What it does

A unique material composition that reduces mining for natural resources by up to 60% through recycling of post-industrial fired ceramic waste. Made under zero-waste manufacturing process, adhering to the principles of circular economy; Supporting SDG-12.


Your inspiration

The first spark for this project was ignited when I travelled to Khurja, a major ceramic production hub in India, for an industrial visit organized as a part of our course. There my friends and I saw heaps of rejected ceramic pieces from industries on roadside. We thought that something needs to be done regarding this. This was my graduation project as a part of my Master’s programme at NID, I chose to work on a self-initiated project to do justice to the slow hunch I have been carrying since more than a year. The inability to separate materials from today’s products made of mixed materials inspired me to work on this idea of mono-material.


How it works

I procure the pulverized form of post-industrial ceramic rejects from the nearby production cluster. We use this pulverized form of waste, called ‘grog’, as a major portion of raw material, up to 60% - 70%, with a minimum amount of virgin clay. This virgin clay acts as a natural binder that helps us to give shape to the grog. As clay naturally converts to ceramics after the firing process, we are essentially working with mono-material. This is a huge advantage while upcycling or recycling a material. Using casting method, called ‘slip-casting’, we can mould this material into any shape and size. With high proportion of grog the composition has a quicker drying cycle increasing its production yield. The material also uses lesser energy to fire. It matures at 1120 °C where virgin material matures at 1220 °C. The material is tested by a Govt. of India lab and reported to be 35% stronger than traditional ceramics. Essentially, doing more and better with less.


Design process

I started with figuring out a binder for grog (waste ceramic) which could help me hold it together and give shape. Clay was selected as a binder as after firing clay converts to ceramics, hence, becoming mono-material. Since ‘Day 1’ of the project, it was decided that we must be able to use the grog under recurring production cycles. It shouldn’t be a case where we use the waste for one production cycle to make products and it adds up to the waste for landfilling at end of its lifecycle. Hence, clay is the best natural binder. Various prototypes have been developed using different clay bodies in varied proportions with grog. Many production methods were also tested. Among all the tests slip-casting proved to be the most feasible way to go ahead. Firing was optimized. Experiments were then tested with various samples of individual clays instead of clay compositions to optimize the material composition for production and economic feasibility. Important factor considered during the design process was to make sure the products from this material can be made using conventional methodologies so that there is no upfront cost for machinery to keep the innovation cost affordable. Currently, I am collaborating with ceramic industries to test the material for large scale production.


How it is different

To make things clear let us establish a fact that this is a material and not a product. Hence, it can have multiple applications across various sectors of different industries. Tableware, architecture, furniture are just some of the applicable sectors. This is a first-of-its-kind innovation that converts the non-renewable ceramic waste into a renewable reusable material. This innovation is a major leap ahead of the existing use of grog (waste ceramic) in the current ceramic industry in India. Currently, based on the industry the proportion of grog used at various manufacturing units in India ranges from 2%-10%. Whereas, Earth Tatva uses 60%-70%. Other uniqueness include: 35% stronger than traditional ceramics, aesthetic at par with virgin material production, low energy consumption, no upfront cost for new machinery, 100% food-microwave-dishwasher safe, unrestricted shape and size mouldability, aids as green building material.


Future plans

Currently, I am working towards converting this project into a start-up. I have received numerous inquires from various individuals and production units asking about this innovation. These tableware products are in demand with the environmentally-conscious hospitality businesses. The businesses who want to serve their guests while operating on a low carbon footprint and the ones serving organic food items have shown interest to use these recycled ceramic wares. I am also in talks with designers and architects known for their sustainable and unique approach towards their work who have shown interest to use this material for their projects.


Awards

1) Recognized as circular economy pioneer by Ellen MacArthur Foundation, London 2) REX Karmaveer Chakra Award 3) Winner – Sustainability by Design, Indus University 4) Finalist – TIP Summit, Abu Dhabi 5) Finalist – Green Product Award, Munich. Story about this project is featured by ‘The Better India’, ‘POOL magazine’ etc


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