Environmental profile of Spanish porcelain stoneware tiles
Porcelain stoneware tile (PST) is currently the ceramic tile of greatest commercial and innovation interest. An environmental life cycle assessment of different varieties of PST was undertaken to enable hotspots to be identified, strategies to be defined, differences between PST varieties to be evaluated and guidance for PST manufacturers to be provided in choosing the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) programme that best suited their needs according to grouping criteria.
Analysis of previous information allowed three main parameters (thickness, glaze content and mechanical treatment) to be identified in order to encompass all PST variations. Fifteen varieties of PST were thus studied. The coverage of 1 m2 of household floor surface with the different PST varieties for 50 years was defined as functional unit. The study sets out environmental data whose traceability was verified by independent third parties for obtaining 14 EPDs of PST under Spanish EPD programmes.
Results and discussion
The study presents PST inventory analysis and environmental impact over the entire life cycle of the studied PST varieties. The natural gas consumed in the manufacturing stage accounted for more than 70% abiotic depletion–fossil fuels and global warming; electricity consumption accounted for more than 60% ozone layer depletion, while the electricity generated by the cogeneration systems avoided significant environmental impacts in the Spanish power grid mix. The variations in PST thickness, amount of glaze and mechanical treatments were evaluated. The PST variety with the lowest environmental impact was the one with the lowest thickness, was unglazed and had no mechanical treatments. Similarly, the PST variety with the highest environmental impact was the one with the greatest thickness, was glazed and had been mechanically treated.
The PST life cycle stage with the highest environmental impact was the manufacturing stage. The main hotspots found were production and consumption of energy and raw materials extraction. Variation in thickness was a key factor that proportionally influenced almost all studied impact categories; the quantity of glaze strongly modified abiotic depletion–elements and eutrophication, while the mechanical treatments contributed mainly to ozone depletion. The study of all PST varieties led to the important conclusion, against the current trend, that differences among them were found to be so significant that declaring a number of PSTs within the same EPD is not directly possible, and it needs preliminary verification to ensure compliance with the product category rule.
KeywordsCeramic tile Porcelain stoneware tile Life cycle assessment Technological variations
This study was performed with the DAPCER tool, developed from the GaBi software package by the authors for the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers’ Association (ASCER) with the financial support of the Instituto Valenciano de Competitividad Empresarial (IVACE) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The authors would also like to thank the ceramic tile manufacturing companies for their help in data collection.
The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the information contained in this paper as well as for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit this Organisation.
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