The limitations of recycling is well known: more than 90 per cent of plastics end up in landfill, a number that is exacerbated by cities that don’t have proper sorting programs. But while that situation is dire – the great Pacific garbage patch is a major problem, though there are design solutions that can help – there are a number of recycling programs that are making an outsized impact. And one happens to reside in a 11,000-person Tennessee town.
In 2009, Crossville Inc. unveiled the Tile-Take-Back program – an initiative that aimed to divert porcelain from the landfill. The local tile maker developed the capability to recycle fired porcelain, and after entering a partnership with bathroom manufacturer Toto USA, it transformed fixtures, scraps, cuttings and samples into ceramic powder and, eventually, new tiles. It sent imperfect materials from the production line to the figurative recycling bin.
Nine years on, Tile-Take-Back’s results have been promising: 114 million pounds of fired-porcelain waste has been diverted from landfills, with roughly 24 million pounds being processed in 2017 alone. Last year, more than 100,000 pounds of recycled materials came from post-consumer waste.
The impact Crossville Inc. has on its namesake hometown has been ongoing. The program has contributed to the Tennessee town’s status as a net consumer of waste – meaning it uses more waste than it creates – for seven straight years. Now, the company claims that there is recycled fired porcelain in every square foot of tile it manufactures; 20 of its offerings contain more than 20 per cent recycled product.
This, of course, isn’t only the work of Cumberland County citizens – a single region couldn’t produce that much tile waste. Instead, the program has taken tile castoffs from Toto – 7.8 million pounds of its refuse was processed last year – as well as post-consumer tile from other brands.
The program has allowed Crossville Inc. to be less reliant on raw materials – and has given a new use for factory seconds.