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Recycled Ceramic Tiles

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 10 Sep 2014 | comments*Discuss
Recycled Ceramic Tiles Recycled Flooring

For those looking for sustainable, environmentally-friendly flooring, recycled is definitely the way to go. Reclaimed wood and recycled glass tiles are some more common options but recycled ceramic tiles are also worth considering. They are incredibly durable, with a very hard, scratch-resistant surface, and often more stain- and moisture-resistant than traditional ceramic tiles. They can be used in a variety of settings, such as kitchens, bathrooms, fireplace surrounds, shower bases as well as other rooms in the home or workplace. Tiles are often chosen as a good option for air quality and a healthy home and with recycled ceramic tiles, you will have a healthy environment too, with a product that has a low ecological impact.

Traditional Ceramic Tiles

Conventional ceramic tiles are usually made from red or white clay, or sometimes a mixture of clay and other organic materials, and then fired in a kiln to finish. The face may then be glazed or unglazed, with the latter being frost-proof and particularly suitable for outdoor use. However, most ceramic tiles are finished with a durable glaze which gives them their colour and pattern. Ceramic tiles are usually used in walls and floor tile applications, although they are only really suitable for light traffic areas as they are more vulnerable to wear and chipping than porcelain tiles. This does make them softer and easier to cut than porcelain, however, and they remain a popular choice for both residential and commercial spaces.

Recycled Ceramic Tiles

Recycled ceramic tiles are generally not 100% recycled but contain a substantial portion of recycled material, with the content varying in type and percentage, depending on the manufacturers. The recycled content can range from 20% to 70%, with the higher being obviously better - in general, a product is considered “green” if it contains at least 40% post-industrial recycled material or at least 20% post-consumer recycled material.

The recycled material used can come from a variety of sources, including post-industrial waste, pre-consumer grinding paste from the computer industry, pre-consumer recycled glaze waste, waste was going to public and private landfills, broken window panes and recycled brown and green clear glass bottles, post-industrial mining waste from the sand and gravel industry, reprocessed glaze waste and most commonly, recycled glass.

What to Look For

Recycled ceramic tiles – like their conventional cousins – come in a wide range of colours, patterns, textures and sizes, so choice can be overwhelming. Here are a few suggestions to help you decide, as well as remain as environmentally-responsible as possible:

  • Go for a larger tile size if possible, as this will mean a lower number of grout joints. Not only does this reduce the use of material and the production of waste, but it also minimizes the chance for mould growth and staining.
  • When installing the recycled ceramic tiles, choose a water-based grout sealant with a low volatile organic compounds (VOC) rating.
  • To help disguise chips and other wear marks, choose a tile with integral colour.
  • Choose a manufacturer which sources its products from within a small radius of the manufacturing plant – otherwise the carbon cost of transporting materials to the plant may negate any of the environmental benefits coming from the use of recycled materials.
  • Ideally, look for recycled ceramic tiles manufacturers that have been certified by an environmental assessing authority and undergo regular audits for strict compliance of certified recycled content.
  • Try to find recycled ceramic tiles that are water-, frost-, chemical- and stain-resistant.
  • Make sure the tiles have a low-toxic, durable, water-proof finish especially for flooring applications. Check that the glaze is lead-free.
  • If you’re looking for flooring for residential and commercial floors with medium traffic, choose matt finish flazes. If you need something for heavy traffic commercial floors, then opt for unglazed tiles.

Care and maintenance of recycled ceramic tiles is simple, just as for traditional tiles. Regular cleaning is advised, first with a vacuum or a dust mop, followed by a wash with clean, hot water and an ecologically-friendly household cleaner for more stubborn stains. Always rinse the tiles thoroughly, followed by drying with a soft cloth, to help prevent water spots. This routine of minimal maintenance is generally all that’s required and no waxes or sealers are needed.

While recycled ceramic tiles may not be the cheapest option, they are certainly a good choice for the environmentally-conscious, offering a beautiful, natural-stone look which is idea for both residential and commercial applications, and a durable surface that is easy to clean and slip-resistant.

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