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Sustainability in the Italian ceramic industry

Green processes along the whole production chain

Sustainability in the Italian ceramic industry

Claudia Astarita

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The Italian ceramic industry has a long tradition of excellence, especially in the area of Emilia Romagna, in particular in the town of Sassuolo. In the 1970s, because of the high concentration of industries in this pole, the need arose for a more careful approach towards the environment. As a consequence, the Italian ceramic industry engaged in sustainable practices and was able to turn this from a restriction to an opportunity.

Ceramic itself is a material with intrinsic natural properties, such as being inert, uninflammable and lacking any sort of radiation. In addition, ceramic is antibacterial, fotocatalitic and has a very long life span of forty years. This represents a competitive advantage in terms of the process of substitution with respect to other materials that need to be replaced more often and therefore have a greater impact on the environment.

Every year the Italian ceramic industry invests over 5% of its turnover in new technologies and products. This translates into an overall national level of ?250 million per year spent on development and innovation. These important numbers held strong even during the long years of recession. The main focus of research is to minimize the use of the single production factors, such as energy consumption, the optimization of glazes and the reutilization of production wastage.

Sustainable practices are applied all along the production chain, from the choice of raw materials to the choice of transportation systems, which has seen a great shift towards the railway, away from the vehicular system, thus reducing significantly polluting emissions. Moreover, thanks to its insulating power, the very presence of ceramics in houses allows to reduce the use of air-conditioning in the summer and of heating in the winter. The firms that strictly respect these regulations are identified with the title "Ceramics of Italy".

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