Motor for growth
Positive trade balance
up to 30%
Production costs related to energy
Sensitive to energy prices
Source of employment
Average lifespan of a brick house
The different Ceramic Applications are: Construction, Industrial Application, Consumer Goods, Houselhold appliances, Healthcare, Renewable technologies, Electronics, Transport, Security, Defence, Aerospace.
Ceramics are made mainly from mined materials (such as clay, bauxite, magnesite), water, fire and air. The main raw material is clay, a resource available in large quantities. Technical ceramics and refractories and are made from a huge variety of raw materials such as aluminium oxide (more commonly known as alumina), magnesia, graphite, corundum and silicon carbide.
Ceramics are generally made by taking raw materials, adding additives, powders, and water, then shaping them into forms, which are dried and fired in a high-temperature oven known as a kiln.
Ceramics are essential to our modern society:
In 2021, EU citizens built almost
800,000 residential units in durable and
energy efficient clay building materials;
Every year, the consumption of ceramic
tiles (wall & floor tiles) in Europe
corresponds to a total surface area
equivalent to 115,000 football pitches!
In 2021, the number of roof tiles used to build
pitched roofs would have been enough to
cover 1.8 million tennis courts! Some tennis
courts are actually covered with recycled clay;
45 million pieces of ceramic sanitaryware
sold yearly in the EU contribute daily to
hygiene and water efficiency thanks to the
Unified Water Label;
Most high temperature industrial
processes rely on refractory ceramics.
For example, 100% of European steel is
produced with refractory ceramics!
Technical ceramics contribute to all EU
citizens’ daily lives through applications
in cars, transport, medical applications,
superconductors, electronics &
batteries, aerospace, and defense, etc.
Heat & fire resistance
Ceramics can withstand very high temperatures but are poor conductors of heat, factors that give them qualities of resistance and stability. Not only do ceramics contribute to fire safety in buildings but they are also used in many industries where high heat is essential for production, from steel to glass. Conventional ceramics are well known for their resistance to heat, being fired in kilns at temperatures well beyond 1000°C, but coarse ceramics used in industrial applications are even more heat-resistant.
Fired clay is naturally insulating. This quality, combined with a judicious design of the cells (honeycomb), means that clay wall bricks are perfectly suited to the new energy performance requirements of the building sector. In addition, the high inertia of these bricks, by offering a regulation of the interior temperature whatever the season, plays a determining role in thermal comfort.
Durability and strength
Ceramic products can last thousands of years – you only have to look at a Roman aqueduct or a Grecian urn to appreciate the amazing strength and longevity of ceramics. Today, our industry continues to manufacture cost-effective items that last a lifetime, delivering value to consumers and industries alike. Ceramics can also be recycled easily, reducing waste streams and contributing to the circular economy.
Ceramics are safe products, and the industry’s many operators throughout the supply chain adhere rigorously to the highest health and safety standards. For example, ceramic tableware and porcelain comply with European legislation on food contact materials, guaranteeing consumers health and safety.
Ceramic products are inert and do not emit substances in the indoor environment, preserving indoor air quality. They also contribute to hygiene thanks to their ease of cleaning and certain ceramic tiles have antibacterial properties.
The European ceramic industry prides itself on creating accessible, affordable products that offer a lifetime of value, whether for the consumer market and affordable housing or for hi-tech applications.
Europe’s ceramics companies are at the forefront of new technological developments in the sector – in manufacturing, design and marketing.
We make ceramic products from the simplest teacup to the most sophisticated capacitator. Creative and versatile ceramic products
strengthen the resilience of this industry.
A key component of essential and strategic value chains
Ceramics are used in various industrial processes, including energy production, chemical production and metallurgy. Ceramics play an essential role as the base of everyday household items, but technical ceramics can be found in applications from electronics, healthcare, security and transport, renewable technologies, aerospace and defense.
Continuing our path towards climate neutrality
Committed to the European Union’s climate ambition for 2030 and 2050
With its overarching European Green Deal and the legally binding European Climate Law the EU has set ambitious climate goals and has set the continent on a clear path to decarbonisation. The European Climate Law legislates the goal set out in the European Green Deal for Europe’s economy and society to become climate-neutral by 2050.
The law also sets the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Climate neutrality by 2050 means achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for EU countries, mainly by cutting emissions, investing in green technologies and protecting the natural environment. The European ceramic industry is fully committed to working with the European Union institutions to lead the transition to a net zero-carbon economy within the coming decades.
SHARE OF EMISSION SOURCES IN THE CERAMIC INDUSTRY IN 2020
Emissions linked to ceramics production can be broken down into three main categories:
- Fuel combustion for drying and heating process.
- Process emissions generated by mineralogical transformation of the clay (cannot be avoided completely).
- Indirect emissions, mainly from electricity production.
Around 90% of emissions comes from three sectors: bricks and roof tiles, wall and floor tiles and refractories. The proportion between the different emission types varies significantly, depending on different processes, plants, products and raw materials (particularly for process emissions which represent 30% of total emissions in the bricks and roof tiles sector and can be as high as 60% of total emissions in the clay blocks sub-segment).
Emissions reduction model
Our emissions reduction model combines a range of measures to achieve a gradual reduction of emissions to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. These include:
- A switch to renewable energy (green hydrogen, biofuels and decarbonized electricity).
- A reduction in process emissions.
- Innovation and increased efficiency in the manufacturing process.
- CO2 capture CCS/CCU.
- Other carbon removal technologies and offsetting measures.
Assumptions & external conditions
The CO2 reduction model assumes that:
- There is a constant level of production and a similar product mix between 2020 and 2050.
- The real emissions for the year 2019 were taken as a basis for the estimations, as 2019 was a more representative year in terms of production levels (due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the year 2020 was not a representative year, as the emissions were exceptionally low during this period).
- Zero-emissions technologies, especially for the firing processes, will be available in a relatively short term, so as to allow the progressive renewal of assets, whose operational lifetime often exceeds 20 to 30 years.
- All barriers regarding the availability of alternative fuels (such as green hydrogen or biogas) are overcome, and that these fuels are made available in sufficient amounts and with a competitive price throughout Europe.
- Obstacles for the technical application and availability of alternative fuels will progressively be removed from 2030 and would allow the industry to move to breakthrough solutions, such as hydrogen, biogas or electricity in equal proportions.
- A gradual decarbonisation of the power supply throughout Europe.
- Gradual availability and acceptance of CCUS
Under this vision of a climate-neutral industry, in the 2050 the European ceramic industry would have a projected energy need of around 140,000 terajoules.
Taking into account the assumptions used for the purpose of this roadmap and detailed assessments made at national level, the ceramic industry considers that by 2030, the annual decarbonisation costs will exceed €500 million. The total cumulated abatement costs until 2050 are estimated at around 27 bn EUR.
Supporting the Renovation Wave
Downstream effects/contribution of ceramics to decarbonisation during their use phase
Collectively, buildings in the EU are responsible for 40% of our energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions.
The energy-saving potential, durability, and reusable qualities of ceramic construction materials (clay bricks, blocks, roof tiles, pavers, expanded clay, wall and floor tiles and sanitaryware) have been known for centuries. With a renewed focus on energy efficiency and circularity, the European ceramic industry will be central to reducing energy use and construction waste.
Renovation of our existing building stock and focusing on near zero energy building are paramount to meeting Europe’s decarbonization objectives. Ceramic construction materials are durable, affordable and provide comfortable, energy-efficient, safe and healthy homes to millions of people in Europe.
Ceramic construction materials provide high levels of safety in case of fire or flood. They also ensure a high indoor air quality, as no toxic emissions emanate from the building fabric into the internal environment.
Ceramic wall and roof systems not only increase comfort but reduce heating and cooling costs and emissions.
Innovative ceramic sanitary appliances contribute to water and energy efficiency, notably in the context of voluntary smart tools promoted by the industry such as the Unified Water Label.
Ceramic construction materials will be pivotal to Europe’s new near-zero energy building stock as well as its Renovation Wave.
Clay brick cavity walls and monolithic clay block walls with integrated insulation can normally reach any required insulation value by varying the insulation thickness. They also offer a maintenance-free solution for a lifetime.
Ventilated facades create an air chamber between the cladding material and the structural surface of the building. Such systems can easily be applied in renovation on any material. A building with a ventilated façade system can be in some cases 35% more energy efficient. Other benefits of ventilated facades include the reduction of dampness on walls, deterring the formation of thermal bridges and providing a comfortable indoor climate by preventing heat from escaping in winter and entering in summer, and improved sound absorption.
Circularity, Biodiversity, Zero-Pollution
The European ceramic industry supports Europe’s goal to move away from a linear ‘produce, use, waste’ model to a circular model in which resources and materials are reused, recycled, or recovered.
Resource efficiency is not only about using less, but about making better use of existing resources. Clay, our industry’s main raw material, is available in abundance. Furthermore, ceramic products are resource-efficient and stand out with their high durability thanks to their long lifespan. And after the end-of-life stage, ceramic products can be reused or recycled.
The ceramic industry is already making a major contribution to the shift towards a circular economy through innovative production processes and sustainable products – for example, by minimizing raw material consumption and waste generation during the production process, optimizing raw material selection, refining product design and promoting supply-chain cooperation for recycling.
Resource efficiency is not only about ‘using less’, but about ‘using better’. Ceramic products, and in particular ceramic construction products, are resource-efficient and have a high durability, requiring little or no maintenance. Studies show that a brick house can have an average life span of more than 150 years, as do clay pipes and buildings containing expanded clay. Research also shows that clay pavers can have a lifetime of 125 years. Sanitaryware appliances and ceramic tiles for flooring and walls can have a life span of up to 50 years, which is very high in comparison to alternative materials. Ceramic tableware and ornamentalware can last for decades.
Moreover, given the inert nature of fired clay, many ceramic products can be reused or recycled after the end-of-life stage, meeting the concept of cradle-to-cradle. In this context, the ceramic industry has developed solutions to minimise raw material consumption and waste generation during the production process, and has increased the reuse and recycling of products.
Biodiversity in action
The unique landscape, especially aquatic environments, created by quarrying operations can have a positive impact on habitats and wildlife in and around these quarries.
Examples of projects aimed at promoting or restoring biodiversity at clay quarries:
Country: The Netherlands
This joint project between Delgromij and WWF focused on the management of waterways to secure new habitats for local wildlife and to create a 290-hectare nature reserve.
Since 1985, the operators have created a network of ponds to promote biodiversity, integrated into the Natura 2000 network and boasting more than 190 bird species. When the operating licence was renewed in 2009, the protected section was increased from 13 to 36 hectares.
In order to successfully engage on this path towards climate neutrality, the ceramic industry will need:
Continued and sufficient carbon leakage protection
- Fair performance benchmarks representative of the sector-specific energy mix evolution, not penalising heterogeneous sectors and SMEs.
- Full consistency in the treatment of unsustainable use of biomass across the whole climate and energy legislative arsenal. All unjustified effect of biomass installations on the ETS benchmarks must be avoided.
- Carbon leakage protection measures should allow EU producers to remain competitive in export markets.
A carbon price incentivising investment
The CO2 price should not limit the industry’s ability to invest in technological transition and should not be affected by carbon market speculation from investors not covered by the EU ETS.
A stable, reliable legal framework
Investments in new kilns and machinery in ceramic processes are made for a period well beyond 20 years. Such long-term investments can only be made if the regulatory framework offers sufficient stability and predictability.
Sufficient financial support
Sufficient financial support both for research and innovation and for investments (CAPEX) and to mitigate higher running operational costs (OPEX). The industry should also have access to Carbon Contracts for Difference.
Secure infrastructure and a stable supply of green energy
The appropriate transportation, storage and distribution infrastructure in green energy (electricity, green H2, biogas or syngas) to ensure stable supply at a reasonable and competitive price.
Energy at a competitive price and better mechanisms to cope with energy crisis
Ensuring access to affordable energy prices, in particular in the context of energy crisis, by preventing and investigating possible anti-competitive behaviour in the energy market, promoting common energy purchase and energy stocks in the EU, and studying the functioning of the gas and electricity markets to improve the internal energy market in the mid- and long-term. Most importantly, instruments should be put into place so that appropriate financial and fiscal support or compensation can be activated on a short-term basis as soon as an energy crisis occurs.
Equal access to green energy
The EU should firmly establish and enforce a principle of sector neutrality for all decarbonised energy sources. Equal access to hydrogen and other green energy sources should be guaranteed for all end-users.
Full access to finance
Sustainable finance should be accessible to all sectors in the process of implementing their environmental and energy transition, including heterogeneous industries and SME sectors. Moreover, EU funding policy should be material-and technology-neutral.
A holistic and integrated approach to building renovation
Cerame-Unie supports the objectives of the Renovation Wave. A holistic and integrated approach is recommended to building renovation to stimulate the whole construction sector. Both renovation and new construction should be promoted.
Supporting holistic life cycle assessment schemes
Ceramic construction products manufacturers support holistic life cycle assessment schemes for buildings, such as the use of voluntary environmental product declarations (EPDs). In this context, Cerame-Unie supports the work of CEN/TC 350 and welcomes European initiatives such as Level(s).
Supporting the New European Bauhaus initiative
The European ceramic industry welcomes and supports the New European Bauhaus initiative, which aims at shaping future ways of living according to key principles of sustainability, inclusion and quality of experience, thus contributing to the wellbeing of citizens.
A framework promoting durable products
Long-lasting, reusable and/or recyclable products should be encouraged, and a whole lifecycle analysis should be binding.
Promote fair, sustainable and free trade
A strong promotion of market access, effective use of trade defence instruments and better integration of environmental considerations in trade to ensure a global level playing field.
Supporting skills & qualifications
Concrete and coherent actions are necessary for the upskilling and reskilling of the EU workforce to support the just transition process.