What environmental performance for italian ceramics?

The ISO 17889-1 standard simplified and standardized the evaluation and rating of building materials on the world market. Although Italian ceramics are already among the best performers, the local industry is constantly innovating in order to pursue a global and constant improvement of its environmental performance.


The ISO 17889-1 standard (“Ceramic tiling systems – Sustainability for ceramic tiles and installation materials-Part 1: Specifications and vocabulary for ceramic tiles”) defines for the first time a set of parameters for objectively measuring the environmental, economic and social impact of ceramic tiles throughout their life cycle. While there are many environmental labels and tags on the global building materials market, the international standard ISO 17889-1 promotes a standard that simplifies and standardises the evaluation and rating of materials.

This evaluation system is composed of 38 indicators, divided into 15 mandatory and 23 voluntary conditions that make up a score ranging from 100 to 130 points. A tile is only ISO 17889-1 compliant if it meets all the mandatory conditions and reaches 117.5 points in the voluntary conditions. The average Italian production exceeds this threshold, with an average of 124 points, with peaks of 126 points.


The ISO 17889-1 standard encourages the careful use of natural resources and the reduction of waste. Italian ceramics industry is breaking new ground in this area with the WINCER project, ceramic tiles made with 85% recycled materials.

Supported by Italian ceramic companies and coordinated by the Centro Ceramico (a research and experimentation centre for the ceramic industry founded in 1976 in Bologna and managed by a University Consortium), WINCER is a project co-founded with the Eco-innovation Initiative of the European Union to develop new ceramic materials produced from waste – WINCER stands for Waste synergy in the production of INnovative CERamic tiles.

With the same technical and aesthetic performance as traditionally produced surfaces, Wincer ceramic tiles also guarantee a significant saving of natural resources with the total replacement of feldspar and silica sand and the partial replacement of clays with glass and raw tile waste.

In total, 55% of Wincer tiles are made from glass from urban waste collection (the finest glass, less than 100 microns, cannot be reused for the production of glass containers) and 30% from dust, sludge and tiles broken before the firing phase of so-called traditional tiles.

From a technical point of view, the production cycle of Wincer tiles is almost identical to the traditional one.


To assess the potential environmental impact of porcelain tiles, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study was conducted by the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

These studies examine all stages of a material’s life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to industrial production and use and recycling or disposal at the end of its life. Various values are analysed to measure the environmental impact of a material under examination, such as the presence of possible carcinogens or organic and inorganic respirable pollutants, aquatic and terrestrial ecotoxicity and acidification, the use of non-renewable energy or the extraction of minerals.

This LCA study not only confirmed the sustainability of the product but also revealed that porcelain stoneware is more sustainable than other materials such as marble, resin, linoleum, carpet and parquet.

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