This material is man-made, usually using kaolin (china clay), but it can also be made from ball clay. Other materials include glass, felspar etc. It is known for its low permeability, high strength and white colour — and is often used in sustainable landscaping.
– Kaolin can be mined in the UK, particularly in the southwest, in counties such as Cornwall. (ref) This means that the kaolin does not need to travel far if it is manufactured and purchased in the UK. A lot is extracted in the UK, and less than 12% of kaolin is used for paving tiles. (ref)
– Some waste products from the extraction can be used for other endeavours, such as aggregates. (ref)
– In the UK, the environment agency works with kaolin-producing companies to ensure their environmental impact is lessened, by restricting water usage etc. (ref)
– Porcelain is durable and not as porous as other rocks, reducing the amount of water that will go through it.
– It keeps itself clean, no moss will grow on the material which will mean less water and chemicals needed to maintain the paving.
– A lot of waste can be made from the extraction of kaolin. For every tone of kaolin, nine tonnes of waste rock and mica are left behind. (ref)
– The mining process removes topsoil but also uses explosives to access the mineral. (ref)
– The clay can be purchased from further afield, such as Italy, India, or China. These imports will require energy to transport them to the UK and this has the potential to emit a lot of CO2.
– To make the clay, it needs to be heated in a kiln, these can get to temperatures in the thousands of degrees Celsius and some glazing requires porcelain to go into a kiln multiple times. (ref) Depending on the fuel used, this can have a massive carbon footprint.
– Most outdoor porcelain is imported from Italy or China.
Derived from china clay (kaolin), Porcelain’s raw material is mined from a quarry, and this process can have major implications for the environment, however, the quarries in the UK work with the Environment Agency to reduce its impact on the environment. This means that UK China clay is less impactful than other places, but the fact it will not need to travel too far will also benefit the environment. Despite this, it is key to remember that kaolin mining is a wasteful industry, producing a lot of waste products. Along with this, large amounts of water and energy are required to obtain the clay. Water is a limited resource, and needs to be conserved to ensure its sustainability, hydraulic pressure mining uses a large amount of water that could be used for other purposes. Depending on the fuel source, the energy required for Porcelain can pollute massively. Alternates to man-made Porcelain can be seen from natural rocks, Granite, Sandstone, or Marble, for a similar colour and look.