Ethics and sustainability have always been present in the history of our group and the green mentality was not born only recently, but we have always tried to bring together ecology and economy with an attentive look at the well-being of all our stakeholders as well.
After all, since many years we are the world’s leading manufacturer of photocatalytic ceramic tiles, with anti-pollution and anti-bacterial features. An application that transformed the traditional inert matter in an “Active” material, to favour the well-being of people living environments where our materials are laid.
Zero Emission is a mission that Iris Ceramica Group has pursued with a view to reconciling the production with the well-being of citizens living close to the production plants.
Even though all kilns of the Iris Ceramica Group already complying with the limits set by the law, Zero Emission was born as a challenge that the President, Dr. Romano Minozzi, launched his closest collaborators to go beyond the requirements of the current regulations: volatile organic compounds (VOCs) must be totally absent in the chimneys of Castellarano site.
Ceramic slabs are fired at very high temperatures (around 1300 °C) to guarantee strength, absence of porosity and great durability over time; however, this phase of the production cycle seems to be insufficient to totally degrade the VOCs that are created during the firing of the decorated large slabs.
A precise research was carried out on the consolidated technologies in the field of fumes treatment to identify the best that could be adapted to the needs of our chimneys that operate with high airflows and already very low emissions. The investigation was not without failures and course changes until the choice, we consider optimal to reach what we had set.
Among the numerous solutions we considered, a “combustor with regenerative heat recovery” was chosen, as it specifically operates at temperatures around 900 ° C, ensuring very high efficiency in terms of abatement of the still volatile organic molecules present in the fumes, including odours. An important economic investment that has enabled the Castellarano site to be equipped with three plants, the first running from September 2018.
Some numbers: Legislative Decree 152/2006 provides for a limit for VOC emissions from the chimneys of ceramic kilns of 50 mg/Nm3. Currently we record values lower than 2 mg/Nm3, therefore definitely below what is required.
Even more attention has been paid to the aldehyde family. Also in this case, Legislative Decree 152/2006 provides for emissions limits of 20 mg/Nm3 and our plants operate firmly below 0.5 mg/Nm3.
Odours represent a peculiar case: the measurements certify a reduction of more than 99% of the odorous compounds on each chimney. By olfactometry, we recorded values around 100 OUE/m3 to the chimney and therefore almost zero close to the most sensitive receptors (by the mathematical model of falling back on the first neighbour).
Despite the high investment costs, the Group has decided to focus on a consolidated technology, but never really used in the ceramic sector. A versatile technology capable of supporting even higher concentrations of pollutants in the future, maintaining efficiency and therefore “zero” emissions.
A conscious choice to allow local communities to live in an environment where the concomitant presence of our factories has no impact on the quality of the air we breathe.
All this must be read in a broader framework of research to reduce the Group’s environmental footprint by limiting both energy consumption, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, and water consumption. In this latter case, thanks to a careful circular recovery and after an accurate purification, the water is completely reused in the dough during the grinding process.
As far as CO2 emissions are concerned, the advent of the production of large slabs has made it possible to drastically reduce electricity consumption thanks to the PCR+, the continuous roller press that allows the green body to be shaped before entering the kiln. PCR+ saves over 480 tons of CO2 per year for each production line compared to the traditional press. Furthermore, more efficient mills have been purchased that operate with a 70% higher efficiency, lower electricity consumption and consequent reduction of CO2 emissions of over 1100 tons/year.