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Ecology and Italian ceramic tiles

The ecological footprint of Nations has been reminding us since the late 80s that annual use of world resource supplies is higher than it should be. As anticipated by Aurelio Peccei in 1968 and by the 1972 report by Meadows “The Limits to Growth” the current situation is such that practical efforts from everyone – citizens and industry – are called for, especially now that climate change has led to extreme events and disasters. The Italian ceramic tile industry has long contributed to the cause through a dual approach concerning both product manufacturing and life cycle.
The industry employs completely safe raw materials, glazes and finishes; both components and transformations of products (burning at high temperatures) are non-toxic. And since world leader plant manufacturers are close by, technology is cutting-edge and up to date – with annual investments almost reaching 6% of total turnover. Logistics – which means high energy consumption for heavy products – has been improved at its best as to the movement of goods, fuels, and packaging.
This eco-friendliness concerns tiles too. But if in the past the industry was more concerned with the use of natural materials, today its environmental care can be seen at different levels. First, the mixture is made of recycled materials; second, tiles can be thinner today, with reduced waste; finally, it is one of the most durable among construction products, and it is inert, fireproof, highly abrasion-proof, and scratch resistant.
The employ of ceramics in architecture also shows environmental commitment through the functional use of materials. The leap here, before being technological, is cultural. A more ‘passive’ approach, which merely takes into account minimization of employed resources, leaves the way to a more ‘active’ one where ceramics is used to help softening or solving environmental issues. Examples include antimicrobial ceramic slabs, where appealing fine finishings and coatings are paired with the ability to keep germ free surfaces; the use of ceramics in ventilated façades, where the wall system is able to enhance energy efficiency of the whole building; the study of urban heat-island effects leading to the choice of light (and LEED certified) colours in order to reduce them.
Italian ceramics is all that and even more, with ongoing studies and research to best improve and protect our planet’s health.

February 2016

[ Editorial of Cer Magazine NEWS n. 1-2/2016, e-magazine of Ceramics of Italy ]

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