Asbestos, River clay


Made in

Circular 218 Human material 18 Recyclable 119 Recycled 123 Regenerative 49 Clay 17

Asbestos, River clay

Photos: Femke Reijerman, Benedetta Pompili

Quenched Asbestos (part of Conversing with Matter)

The project investigates the mining behind clay and ways to lessen the extractive impact by researching local river clays and the treatment and reuse of asbestos as a filler. The research over these contemporary issues and aims happens through rethinking traditional techniques, such as throwing on the potter’s wheel the agate technique, and the use of fillers.
In the first section of the research, the white stoneware WB04256, industrially mined and processed, stabilises the river earthenware through a marbling technique, traditionally applied for decorative aims, and allows to tell and compare two contrasting extractive stories. The objects are thrown on the potter’s wheel, which enables the clay to reveal its personality through a mutual conversation with the maker’s hands. Since potters say that to start understanding the material it is crucial to throw at least one hundred posts, the designer has led one hundred samples of conversations.
The second part, concerning the reuse of asbestos after treatment, develops a series of outdoor and indoor tiles. The river clay is mixed with the asbestos already chemically treated and crushed into powder form. The chemical treatment itself, done in collaboration with the research centre and company Asbetter Acids, reuses waste chemicals from Rotterdam and produces no waste. The treated asbestos gives insulating characteristics and lightness to the clay, opening up new futures for the material and reducing the carbon emissions due to heavy transportation.
On the one hand, the clay from the Maas, being a river-clay, is in continuous formation. The harvesting act allows to clean and regenerate the riverbanks. It promotes care for what gets dispersed in water bodies and then absorbed into the clay, and considerably reduces the pollution otherwise produced by long transportation.
On the other hand, the treatment of asbestos and the reuse as a filler allows it to recoup waste coming from an unwanted stigmatised material and decrease the amount of mined clay. After the treatment, asbestos partly keeps its heat resistance, adding insulating properties and extra lightness to the clay. Asbestos, when merely dumped, stays dangerous in the landscape, causing high maintenance costs, threatening the life of the workers, and preventing the recoup of precious materials from landfills. Moreover, treating and reusing asbestos counteracts illegal dismissals induced by the high removal costs.

Additional information

Asbestos-cement is collected by the research centre and company Asbeter Holding, based in Rotterdam. The group studies, collects within the Netherlands, and treats in loco the dangerous material through a cold bath of wasted chemicals, coming from the nearby discharge company.
After having sent to be tested the safety of the by-product through an external and official laboratory for asbestos detection, the treated asbestos is ground and collected by the maker through electric or public transport.
The designer wedges through a traditional and manual technique the treated material as a grog or chamotte into the river clay from the Maas. The clay is collected through Wetering (North Brabant), a company collaborating with the WUR and gathering clays from rivers without replenishing the river-bed and maintaining the biodiversity of the area they work into. The special chamotte ideally goes up until the 50%, to also diminish the amount of clay in the final objects. After firing, it makes the terracotta tiles lighter and stronger, allowing for a longer life span of the material and diminishing the footprint of the transportation. Additionally, the chamotte of treated asbestos can be easily sieved from the clay to recycle the clay and reuse the grog.

Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.


River clay from the Maas, treated asbestos chamotte (0-2 mm).


Asbeter Holding, Wetering