In the current environmental context, companies are facing the crucial challenge of reducing carbon gas emissions and reaching carbon-neutrality. Beyond the direct emissions and the ones due to energy consumption (scope 1 and 2), both upstream and downstream indirect emissions (scope 3) count in a large proportion in the final carbon footprint. Among those indirect emissions, the life cycle of the products, from their supply to their end of life, is often a point of improvement. Regarding refractories and technical ceramics, a large proportion is still landfilled at the end of life of the products generating thousand tons of waste. The revalorization of this waste would decrease their environmental impact thanks to their reuse as recycled raw materials.
Initially dedicated to improving the life cycle of the refractories from the glass industry, Valoref Europe (Saint-Gobain group) has developed a whole process, from the collect of the waste to their recycling, that can be extended to most types of ceramics. The collection means have been adapted to meet both low and high tonnage recovery requests from the different markets. Turn-key services have been implemented to comply with the standards applied in each country regarding the waste management legislations and the waste transportation regulations. Different recycling solutions are achievable depending on the nature of the materials and pollutions. All these points will be detailed during the presentation. The recycled raw materials obtained can be reused in the industry allowing companies to decrease their carbon footprint regarding the supply part of the life cycle.
The substitution of a part of the virgin raw materials by the recycled ones will reduce the carbon gas emissions linked to the production process of the virgin materials. The case of zircon-based products which come from the mining of zircon sand will be evocated. The recycled raw materials can be reused in various applications. After treatment, they can be reintroduced in the same fabrication process leading to circular economy but most of the time the presence of external elements coming from the process they have been used in requires a reintroduction in another application with different needs than the initial process. Some examples of potential applications will be mentioned.
Valoref works closely with all the subsidiaries of Saint-Gobain group and with external companies both on ceramic waste recovery and on the supplying of recycled raw materials. The revalorization performed contributes to improve the carbon footprint of these companies and to reach the target of carbon-neutrality fixed by Saint-Gobain in 2050. Given the growing demand and the diversity of markets, ceramic and refractory types as well as potential pollutions, R&D projects are under progress and the development of Valoref is still on-going, in Europe and worldwide.
Keywords: recycling, refractories, ceramics, life cycle, carbon footprint