KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

May 31 2012

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Doing the impossible: recycling used tile

I was recently a speaker at Coverings, the annual tile and stone trade show in Orlando, FL. As a green interior designer, I’ve been asked to speak at several shows around the country about ways to design interiors with sustainable, healthy materials. Finding ‘green’ or sustainable products is somewhat easier now than it used to be even 5 years ago, but it’s still confusing to many people. I mention ways to save energy, water, and promote good indoor air quality, and there’s still a lot of questions about what exactly makes a particular product “green.”

The real answer is that there is no exact answer. Green products mean different things to different people. And not all products are completely “green.” For example, you may find a beautiful glass tile that you’ve been told is made from recycled material and is supposedly “green,” but how much of it is actually made from recycled glass? And if it’s made in China, who’s factoring in all the fuel burned and carbon expelled to get to the USA?

So there’s a ton of things to consider, all of which is very confusing and makes some people want to throw up their hands and just buy the first thing they see that fits the bill. Being constantly vigilant about sustainable products is pretty exhausting to the average person. One of the important points I try to get across to people is that it is very frustrating and confusing, and trying to create a “perfectly green” room or home just isn’t easily attainable. Trying to be as green as you can within the confines of your budget and style is really commendable, and anything over and above that is icing on the cake.

I’ve always been concerned about the tons and tons of waste generated during the demolition process of a home renovation and the fact that it languishes in landfills for eternity. I’ve been on a constant search to find products that can be recycled once their usefulness is over, and it hasn’t been easy.

Until now, post-consumer tile has been considered non-recyclable. While many tile manufacturers have successfully reused scrap powders and unfired tile, hundreds of millions of pounds of damaged or otherwise unsellable fired tile (tile in its finished state) have gone to landfills each year. Additionally, there has been no environmentally friendly manner to dispose of previously installed tile—until now.

I was recently informed about Crossville, a nationally known manufacturer of beautiful ceramic and porcelain tile located in Tennessee, which has several really innovative and amazing programs in place that handle the problem of pre and post consumer waste beautifully and efficiently.

With its Tile Take-Back Program, Crossville, the tile industry’s leader in sustainable initiatives, has solved the major environmental problem facing the tile industry today: recycling fired tile. Crossville has developed a proprietary system of processing ceramic and porcelain tile back into powder used in manufacturing new tile. The resulting new products have a verifiable recycled content, and more than 4 million pounds of tile that Crossville would have previously sent to local landfills have been recycled to date.

Not only does the process allow Crossville to repurpose its own scrap tile, but it allows the company to take back samples and previously installed tile, always a concern for environmentally minded designers and building owners.

Crossville made history with the first cradle-to-cradle installation project in Chicago’s 43-story Federal Building. It harvested all 200,000+ pounds of porcelain tile and sanitary ware from the building and recycled it to create 65,000 sq. ft. of porcelain tile to install back into the project.

Toilets into Tile: Crossville received thousands of pounds of unusable, fired porcelain fixtures from TOTO, and transforms them into beautiful, responsibly made tile products.

It’s companies like Crossville that give me hope that ‘green’ design isn’t just for a select few, and that we are beginning to realize the value of using our resources wisely and well. And beautifully too!

Patricia Gaylor

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2012 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Green, Products. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1.  mary@holdfastcomm.com |

    I’ve worked with Pat on many projects since 1999 and we have shared a common path. She is an original thinker and researching new trends that are real, not trending.

    Thank you, Patricia for the research and insight.