Why this is important

Ceramics are made from entirely naturally occurring materials, many of which are forecast to run out in the coming decades based on current rates of consumption and known resources. Our current linear economy has resulted in the rapid depletion of Earth’s resources and we now need approximately 1.7 planets to cover our annual consumption of the Earth’s raw materials – a figure that is rising all the time (1). Scarcity directly correlates with price, putting the ceramics industry and environment at risk.

In addition to the mining process damaging ecology, there are also ethical concerns. Cobalt is an oxide used in ceramics, mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which contains 60% of the world’s supply (2). However, there is evidence of widespread use of child labour which has resulted in injury and even death. By reducing the demand for raw materials, Circular Ceramics reduces social and ecological damage.

We now have the luxury of receiving materials and products directly at our doorsteps, but what is hidden are the ecological and social costs. When a ceramicist orders clay to their workshop, what they don’t see is the 9 tonnes of waste produced for every tonne of clay quarried (3). As designers, it is vital that we design out waste so that a product doesn’t contain just 5% of the raw materials used to make it.

Footnotes
(1) Remondis Aktuell, 2019:
https://remondis-uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/REMONDIS-Aktuell-Special-Edition-01.pdf
(2) https://www.statista.com/statistics/339834/mine-production-of-cobalt-in-dr-congo/
(3) Mark Pilcher, 25 April 2014:
https://environmentagency.blog.gov.uk/2014/04/25/a-whiter-smile-a-greener-environment-cleaning-up-with-china-clay/