In 2017, Hanneke de Leeuw started investigating the possibilities of using broken and discarded pieces of ceramics, which otherwise end up in waste containers, as a resource for making new ceramics. There are a number of negative environmental aspects associated with the production of ceramics that require a solution for the future. First, there is the development of porcelain quarries, problematic both in terms of their impact on the landscape and the amount of waste they generate. Subsequently, a lot of energy is used in the production of ceramics when firing the ovens during production and the manufacturing process also generates a lot of waste (from both clay and glaze). Moreover, at the end of their life, ceramic products are simply sent back to the waste incinerator. While the interest in ceramics within the design sector was still at a low ebb here, people in Japan were already experimenting with recycling, focusing only on porcelain clay and with the aim of obtaining an end product that is identical to the non-recycled version. For the time being, the Japanese experiments are not a resounding success and this method was not applied in Europe.
In 2017, Hanneke de Leeuw visited two Japanese research institutes and started collaborations with Cor Unum (a renowned ceramics atelier in the Netherlands) and the Technical University in Delft. She started testing with different types of clay (porcelain, stoneware and terracotta) and different types of recycled material. The first tests resulted in a series of plates, that were shown in Milan in 2018. The presentation showed what recycled content means for tactility and outlook of the ceramic designs. Hanneke did not want to make plates that were identical to the non-recycled version, as they do in Japan, but show the added value of recycling, from an environmental as well as from an aesthetic point of view.
This project consists of different phases and this set of tableware was the first step. The plates presented in Milan contained 10% of recycled material. The first set of these porcelain plates was sold to 2-star chef Soenil Bahadoer of restaurant De Lindehof in Nuenen (The Netherlands).
In 2019 further tests were done, which led to a series of stoneware vases that contained around 20% of recycled material (also shown in Milan). Tests with higher percentages of recycled content were carried out, as well as tests with smaller/bigger types of grains, specific colours as well as re-recycling.
In 2020, Hanneke de Leeuw was one of the winners of the WORTH Partnership project. The project led to a series of lamps with around 30% recycled material, called ‘Reprint Ceramics’.
‘Reprint Ceramics’ is a series of 3D printed lamps, parametrically designed, made from recycled ceramics. It combines the 3D clay printing technique by Coudre Studio (Spain) with the methodology for re/upcycling discarded household ceramics by Hanneke de Leeuw (Netherlands).
By using post-industrial and post-consumer ceramics’ waste as a resource for making new high-quality products, the project shows that the use of waste can reduce supply chain costs, decrease the use of raw materials and improve the ecological footprint.
The tactility, the look and feel, its organic structure, it all fits together. The lamps are a showcase of both material and technique.
Old and discarded pieces of ceramics are ground to powder and mixed with virgin clay. After mixing, water, bentonite, sodium silicate and paper fibres may be added when necessary.
Sodium silicate needs to be added in order to print porcelain instead of clay, please note that this ingredient does contain chemicals.
Hanneke de Leeuw
Cor Unum, TU Delft, Coudre Studio for the 3D printing
Tessa Spaaij, Coudre Studio