How ECO-friendly is ceramics?

How ECO-friendly is ceramics?

Several processes involved in the environmental footprint of ceramics

  1. Mining, Processing and transport of clay to the manufacturer
  2. Toxic components in clay and glaze
  3. Working of clay to the desired form
  4. Plastic packaging for transportation.
  5. Energy required to fire the kiln
  6. Recycling process

Let’s look in detail at how to reduce the impact of each step.

1. Raw sources production and transportation 

To eliminate this point you can make clay yourself or buy locally sourced products. The best way is of course to prepare your clay yourself, but it’s a long and complicated process. Glazes can be made by you as well (you need basic chemistry knowledge) but you need raw materials for this anyway.  Making clay and glazes is more advanced level.  So it’s easier just to find a good supplier.

2Toxic components in clay and glaze

Some glazes can contain lead and other dangerous elements, but they are dangerous in a raw state. You should not drain it in the toilet, but when fired they can’t cause any harm (glazes with cadmium and lead have to be used for decoration only)

 Manufacturers are obliged to label toxic glazes clearly, so you can avoid them easily. 

3. Work with clay

If you are an independent potter, you do everything by yourself, so this point only for factories. 

4. Packaging

Packaging is an important step. You want your customer to receive your art in one piece. The easiest way to wrap it in plastic. 

The most sustainable is to reuse plastic that you already have, for example airbags and bubble wrap. You can collect packing peanuts and boxes from all your packages

If it’s not enough and you want to buy a wrap there is good news. You can find non-plastic alternatives for packaging. 

5. Energy 

Ceramics require a lot of energy. Potter fire the piece at least twice on the temperature 700-1300 C. But you can use “green” energy to power firing equipment. I switched to the totally green electricity supplier and I don't worry about this part anymore. 

6. Recycling 

Ceramic items are difficult to recycle as completely as plastics or glass and not all countries recycle them. For example I was not able to find something in NL, but here are some possible ways. 

Ceramics is crushed or ground down into smaller pieces which can be used

  • as fill material (large pieces of ceramic can form part of builders' rubble used to fill in landscaping and construction sites, particularly on driveways and roads.)
  • as gravel (a washing or tumbling treatment can smooth off rough edges resulting in colourful gravel for use in gardens and paving.)
  • as raw material for new ceramics (some ceramic items can be ground down into fine dust, essentially turning them back into the clay mineral from which they were originally made. Since the minerals used to make certain high-quality ceramic components are becoming rare, this form of recycling is garnering more attention lately.)


Derived directly from the Earth, ceramic is also one of the most natural materials you can use in your home interior designs. If you’re looking for durability and longevity in a sustainable product, you can’t beat ceramics. They can last for centuries! 

You as a potter can make your ceramics as eco-friendly as possible. 

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

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