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ZIA study shows zircon-containing ceramic tiles have lower environmental burdens

January 2022

Zircon-containing tiles have a lower environmental burden than those made with alumina according to a new study that qualifies and compares the environmental impacts associated with the production of super-white ceramic tiles.

The life cycle assessment study, commissioned by ZIA, provides a comparison using a cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. Using primary data from industry, it compares the environmental impacts of either using zircon or alumina in tile body mixtures to produce tiles with a high degree of whiteness.

The results show that tiles using zircon have lower environmental burdens for almost all the analysed impact potentials. The zircon mixtures investigated showed around a 20% lower Global Warming Potential (GWP), Eutrophication Potential (EP), Acidification Potential (AP), Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP), Abiotic Depletion Element and Fossil Potential (ADPe/f) and Primary Energy Demand (PED). The Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) is the only potential impact that is similar for zircon mixtures and alumina mixtures.

ZIA Executive Director, Dr Keven Harlow, said:

“The technical benefits of zircon as an opacifier in ceramic tiles are well known. This LCA study adds to these by demonstrating that zircon-containing tiles have an overall lower environmental burden compared to tiles containing alumina. With this study, tile producers and specifiers have a tool to guide material selection, using a scientific and peer-reviewed methodology, enabling an objective comparison between these opacifiers.

“Architects, designers and ceramic tile manufacturers alike can now be confident that zircon-containing tiles are the sustainable choice.”

This ISO-compliant study was reviewed by an independent, expert panel and presents the first Life-Cycle Assessment comparison between zircon and alumina, using primary data from industry.

This work follows the first ZIA study ‘Life Cycle Assessment of Zircon Sand Production Applied to Ceramic Tiles’ published in 2017.

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the study can be downloaded here.
  2. A copy of the first study ‘Life Cycle Assessment of ZIrcon Sand Production Applied to Ceramic Tiles’ can be found here.
  3. As a non-profit organisation, ZIA works on behalf of its members to develop and promote zircon, zirconia, and derivative substances by advocating the benefits of their widespread application in today's world.
  4. ZIA has a strict Code of Conduct and Antitrust policy which applies to all ZIA activities.

For further information, please contact:
Claire Caton / media@zircon-association.org