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Recycled products shatter old ideas about ceramic waste

New approaches, regulations ensure greener, cleaner industry

By ZHAO RUINAN in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-16 07:33
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An absorbing idea

Transforming ceramic waste into sustainable building materials is an innovation Yi Design specializes in.

Over the past three years, Yi Design has developed four types of recycled tiles and bricks.

"Our lab focuses on researching ceramic waste and solid waste as primary raw building materials, with an emphasis on art and aesthetics, to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly materials and products for the construction and design sectors," said Deng Peiran, head of the company's design department.

Yin Yi, one of the co-founders of Yi Design, said that building blocks the company has made from ceramic waste can be used as an "absorbent alternative" to conventional cement bricks in various situations.

"The recycled brick's standout features are not only its great water permeability, but also its water storage capacity," said Yin. "When laid in a city, they can absorb condensation water when temperatures are cooler, with each brick capable of holding around 200 milliliters of water. As the sun rises and temperatures increase, the stored water evaporates from the bricks, helping to cool the environment," Yin said.

In addition to their cooling effect, these bricks can be used to collect rainwater in urban areas.

Pavers laid on city streets use cement, which prevents rainwater from seeping into the soil, Yin said.

However, if permeable eco-friendly bricks are used to collect rainwater, the water can be recycled and reused, he said.

"It's perfect for sponge cities — urban spaces that retain stormwater, before gradually filtering and releasing it — or for outdoor use in paved areas and gardens."

Yin's interest in ceramic waste recycling began in 2018 when he decided to do a master's degree on future materials at Central Saint Martins, a university in the United Kingdom.

Upon returning to China during the COVID-19 pandemic, Yin and Cheng established Yi Design. Yin is responsible for product development and laboratory and factory operations, while Cheng handles external promotions and operations.

Over the past three years, Yi Design's products have won multiple international prizes, including the BLT Built Design Awards Winner 2022 and Red Dot Awards 2022 Winner. In 2023, the company also won the Kering Generation Award.

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