Circular Economy & Ceramic Industry

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Hey there! Welcome to Thoughtful Thursdays brought you by Circular Business Podcast India: I'm your podcast host Sreepriya Sridharan.

Many of us are unaware of how dependent we are on ceramic products in our everyday life. Apart from decorative look, ceramic products are primarily hygiene products..touching our lives everyday right from our morning coffee to a pee and once again at the end of the day shower.

With an installed capacity already in excess of 40 million pieces/year, India is world’s 2nd largest sanitary-ware producer after China and 2nd largest tile producer with volumes over 1.1 billion accounting for 7% of the global production. Government initiatives such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA), building of 100 smart cities, development of industrial corridors and “housing for all by 2022” schemes will drive continued growth for the ceramics industry in the near future.

According to Indian Ceramic Industry report by Messe Muenchen India & EAC International Consulting

  • Nano technology, 3-D printing are identified as ongoing trends in the Indian ceramic tiles manufacturing

  • Tableware category being largely unorganized and under penetrated shows great potential- reason being demand for better lifestyle and increased spending on designed products

How often have we questioned ourselves about environment sustainability in this industry? Apart from demolition of a construction project or throwing broken ceramics into dry waste, do we know where does this waste go to?

While YouTube art and craft videos have made the Japanese art of Kintsugi popular, I was even more surprised to learn the additional potential, outside of arts and crafts, for the ceramic industry and its contribution to make a shift towards circular economy.

Though there are a number of large companies in the ceramics sector, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for more than 50% of the total market in India. Morbi region in Gujarat alone accounts for ~90% of the market share of ceramic products.

In the 3rd episode of Circular Business Podcast India, our guest Shashank Nimkar from Earth Tatva shared interesting perspectives around realities within the ceramic world! One of my aha! moments during the conversation was knowing how blasted-clay aka “ceramics” are not bio-degradable.

Yup, that is true, so now you may ask me, but how does that matter?

Plastic toh nahi hai na!?

To all those who have the above question, let me share with you some harsh realities. Manufacturing of ceramics accounts for huge amounts of land and air pollution in addition to poor working conditions of laborers.

The quarrying of various raw materials for the ceramic industry in and around Morbi and Thangadh has eroded the land topography with numerous depressions of different shapes and depths. Some of these depressions are filled with environmentally unfriendly and non-degradable ceramic waste materials and some of them collect rain water causing accidents and remain mosquito breeding pockets all over.

Coal is one of the major sources of fuel for ceramic industry in Gujarat.

Natural gas is another source of fuel for this industry. Although there are many advantages associated with natural gas as a fuel (no wastage in transit, reliable clean and nearly pollution-free), the required quantity is not available and also the prices fluctuate frequently.

Speaking of raw materials, clay-derived from soil is the basic component of many ceramic products and we assume the supply is endless, right? It is not. Compare the seemingly endless raw material supply with our ballooning population and we are destined to deplete this resource in the not so distant future. For eg. Morbi the largest contributor, sources key raw material from Gujarat, Rajasthan and other states.

This is where embracing a circular economy in this industry becomes vital for our nation.

With a growing population, resources drying up and a raw material intensive manufacturing process, what would this industry look like when we apply circular business principles to its operating systems?

Are the big players in this market investing in R&D for cleaner and renewable energy sources?

How can manufacturers take accountability and what policies can government put forth in order to deal with the heaps of ceramic waste being dumped leading to infertile soil and poor air quality?

Today we need more companies like Earth Tatva to reimagine what is possible with the millions of tons of ceramic waste generated each year and close the loops left by traditional manufacturing and dumping methods. In my view the established companies should participate in startup funding and promote collaboration with government and industry collations to amplify change.

So what is the solution? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

Join us for more conversation only on Circular Business Podcast-India. Do subscribe to our series wherever you listen to your podcasts, its free and it only means that you will get new episodes automatically. Feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions on our content and do follow our page by clinking on this link.

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