Suggestions for the Recycling and Reuse of Bathroom Ceramic Tiles
written by: Willie Scott•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 12/10/2010
There are several suggestions for the recycling and reuse of bathroom tiles. Ceramic tiles are notoriously difficult to remove from the bathroom walls in one piece. Recycling the tiles by the ceramic industry is one option, but you can reuse bathroom tiles as flower pot drainage or a wall mosaic.
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Introduction to Ceramic Tile Manufacture
Used ceramic tiles from our bathroom walls can be deposited at a recycling point, or a building material recycling specialist. From here they can be transported to a ceramic tile manufacturer.
However, please note that having researched this subject, at present, there does not appear to be any ceramic manufacturers recycling used tiles processing information. To understand the recycling process of bathroom tiles, we will have a look at the current operations involved in the processing of ceramic tiles from the materials used to the final firing of the glazed product.
We then begin by having a look at the raw materials used and then examine the manufacturing process. We will also be investigating where the recycled used tiles could join the process and how they can be reused for aesthetic purposes.
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Materials used in the Manufacture of Ceramic Tiles
China Clay (Kaolin) – this mineral is mined as kaolinite ore in many parts of the world, usually by high water pressure techniques. The vast majority of it being used in the paper industry with the remainder mostly being used in the manufacture of ceramics.
Ball Clay – used as a substitute for China clay or an additive to it. Used to bond the other tile components together.
Feldspar – one of the Earth’s most common minerals. It contains aluminium and silica being used as a flux (something which lowers the melting point of another material) in the ceramic tile process.
Sand – used as a filler and to stop shrinkage and cracking
Quartz – used to give the tiles a hardness property and also stops deformation during firing process.
Talc – used as a filler
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Ceramic Tile Process
All the contents are mixed together with water to produce a slurry which is then dried and crushed into a powder.
The powder is fed into tile presses which compress the tiles to the required shape, which are then fired in a kiln.
Glazing is then applied to the tile and then the tile is re-fired to over 1000οC. The tiles are then inspected and any tiles with blemishes rejected for reprocessing, (this is an ideal point at which used tiles can join the rejects for recycling).
Tiles are then packed and ready for dispatch to the wholesalers.
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Recycling and Reuse of Bathroom Ceramic Tiles
As already stated, this is one method of recycling ceramic bathroom tiles that could be used by tile manufacturers, based on their present method of recycling their own tile rejects.
Recycling of Bathroom Tiles
Before recycling the old tiles, they will have to have any large pieces of plasterboard removed from them.
The tiles can then be crushed into a powder and water added to make a slurry. The gypsum from any remaining plasterboard must be removed along with the fixative (glue used to stick the tiles to the wall). Any traces of grout can remain in the slurry as grout contains some of the components used in the original tile mix.
This slurry can then be added to the vessel containing the rejected tile slurry and well agitated before being dried and crushed to a powder.
This powder is then run under an electromagnet to remove any metals, and a sample analyzed to ensure no undesirable elements are present. Once this is confirmed, this powder could then be added into the processed powder, just before the tile pressing stage.
Reuse of Bathroom Tiles
Tiles can be broken into suitable pieces and used as bottom liners in flower pots. This aids in the drainage of water from the pot compost.
Some tiles will have broken to form quite unusual shapes. These bathroom tiles can be incorporated in garden walls, using tile adhesive (usually plenty left over after tiling), or used as material in an outdoor mosaic.
The broken tiles can also be cut into different shapes (remembering to remove the sharp edges and wear eye protection), and by adhering a piece of old denim jeans to the back of the shapes, you can create great coasters for the garden patio area.
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Ceramic bathroom tiles are difficult and labor intensive to remove from the walls without damaging both the tiles and the walls, especially so if they have been glued to the walls with an old type of adhesive. They invariable break up or take the plasterboard with them, making it difficult to reuse and recycle bathroom tiles.
However, there are recycling facilities locally which will accept them, and usually a building construction material recycling company who will also accept used tiles.
Some ceramic tile manufacturing companies may accept them provided most of the plasterboard has been removed.
They could then possibly recycle the tiles and incorporate the resultant powder into their tile manufacturing process.
Bathroom tiles can also be reused for making mosaics in the garden for aesthetic purposes and as drainage aids in potted plants.