Contributing to EU’s zero-pollution ambition
Europe’s zero-pollution vision for 2050 is for air, water and soil pollution to be reduced to levels no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems, and to respect the planet’s boundaries by creating a toxin-free environment.
The European ceramic industry is committed to adopting the best available technologies to reduce all forms of pollution from its raw material extraction and throughout its production processes. We have a long history of working with regulators and local communities to reduce pollution. Ceramic products such as refractories, and the use of ceramics in catalytic converters, help to reduce harmful emissions.
The European ceramic industry has been in business for thousands of years, continuously improving, and now has some of the world’s most advanced manufacturing facilities. Both large- and small-scale plants feature state-of-the-art emission control technology, and continuous innovation has helped perfect manufacturing techniques that reduce emissions.
Producing ceramics requires temperatures, and the combustion of fuels to generate this heat produces air emissions. As the raw materials are heated, chemical reactions take place that generate air emissions, but advanced emission control technology has helped mitigate this. These techniques include the reduction of pollutant precursor input, process optimisation, sorption plants (adsorbers, absorbers), afterburners and filters. The adoption of green electricity or green gas for heat generation will substantially reduce CO2 emissions.
The amount of water needed to produce ceramics is limited, and most plants produce little or no wastewater. However, specific types of ceramics manufacturing require water, and the resulting wastewater can contain mineral components, inorganic and organic materials and some metals. Wastewater is increasingly being treated and reused to minimise the use of fresh water. Most ceramic plants now have closed water cycles, and rainwater is being used in some factories.
Modern ceramics manufacturing has a limited impact on our soil. The European ceramic industry has robust processes in place to avoid any form of soil contamination. Ceramics are inert materials and thus do not cause any harm to the soil.
Ceramics: essential for reducing pollution
Emission control systems
Ceramics have been a key component in catalytic converters for decades and have been instrumental in reducing transport- related air pollution.
Refractory products are a vital element in all high-temperature processes, such as the manufacturing of metals, petrochemicals or glass. Innovation in refractory products makes these production processes ever more efficient, leading to reduced emissions.
Indoor air quality
Ventilated ceramic facades help enhance indoor air quality by keeping pollutants out, contributing to thermal efficiency and mitigating noise pollution.
An inert material
Ceramics are inert and do not leak pollutants, nor do they react with other substances in a way that could produce harmful pollutants. Ceramic materials used indoor are free of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ensure indoor air quality. As an inert material, ceramics in products such as water pipes avoid contamination, even if used over a very long time period.
Realistic requirements and fair implementation of the Industrial Emissions Directive
The revision of the Ceramic Best Available Techniques Reference Document (BREF) under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED, Directive 2010/75/EU), and the revision of the IED should promote environmental objectives while ensuring realistic requirements that take into account the economic and technical feasibility for the various ceramic sectors. The implementation of the IED should also preserve a level playing field, not adding a disproportionate burden only on European companies. The European Union should make use of its trade policy instruments to promote equivalent environmental standards with its trading partners, for instance in Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in Free Trade Agreements or through the implementation of its trade defence instruments by better taking into account non-incurred environmental costs in third countries.
Chemical strategy for sustainability
While ensuring the highest protection for the consumer, chemical legislation should ensure a level playing field with imports from outside the European Union, and not create unnecessary burden for European companies. This applies particularly to the treatment of intermediate substances, which are no longer present in the final product to which consumers are exposed.
A consistent legal framework
The various legislations designed to achieve the zero pollution objectives should be consistent and avoid unnecessary overlap. Such overlap in legislation would create confusion and lead to an excessive and unnecessary regulatory burden.
Access to funding
The use of ceramics in clean air technologies provides a strong example of the importance of our industry as an enabler for environmental objectives. We strongly believe that research and innovation support via access to European project funding should be ensured to continue on this path.