Pushing waste material further - in Principle, and beyond

When we first started Alusid, we considered the feasibility of how material that is largely considered to be ‘waste’, could be transformed into a high-end surface product. Taking this ‘in principle’ concept, we went from idea to small-scale manufacturer. But we always had our eye on bigger things. We had scalability in mind from the outset. And in spring this year, our first retail collection, Principle, launched in partnership with Topps Tiles, allowing us to deliver our 91% recycled tiles on a mass scale.

But how did we go from manufacturing on a relatively small scale to launching the Principle range to a large-scale consumer base? And how do we grow from here, to support in securing a more sustainable future for all? Read on for the journey so far…

Starting a start-up

When I teamed up with Professor David Binns at the University of Central Lancashire for our collaborative project ‘The Aesthetic of Waste’, our main aim was to explore how low-value materials could be diverted from their pre-destined end-of-life in landfill, to instead being transformed into high-quality products for use in interior design schemes. Rather than signify a new end-of-life, the designs would be created in a way that would allow a circular lifecycle, where as well as being durable and beautiful enough to be used in-situ for many years, they could also be recycled for future lives again and again.

Following a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, we were able to turn this concept into a reality, and Alusid was born. Using ‘waste’ material that was readily available, we began with longevity and scalability in mind. While there are many different streams of ‘waste’, we wanted something relatively ‘standard’ so it wouldn’t change over time. This led us to post-consumer glass, and factory ‘waste’ porcelain. In addition, we don’t use any chemicals or resin binders, and the manufacturing process produces zero waste.

Our first products were SilicaStone tiles in different collections including Strata and Incline. Plus, our Solid Surface offering for larger projects. While these ranges were embraced by the architecture and design community – for use in hospitality and workspace projects such as Nando’s and the Four Seasons, we were always faced with limited capacity. Until now. Our ‘in principle’ concept, to transform ‘waste’ material into stunning products with an unlimited lifespan, on a mass scale, became an actuality in the Principle collection.

Scaling up product, retaining quality

Launched with Topps Tile in spring this year, the Principle range served as the catalyst for our new type of offering – allowing you to specify our products on a larger scale. Designed in the UK, the aesthetic was inspired by the ceramic tiles in Manchester’s former Principal Hotel. Comprising a traditional brick slip format in 4 colours, the tiles are crafted from a minimum of 91% recycled industrial waste – the highest level in the tile industry globally.

Partnering with a manufacturer in Spain – a country renowned for its connection to ceramics - our Principle tiles are made on industry-standard mass production equipment, which guarantees both speed and quantity to meet tight turnarounds and any scale of project. Establishing the best route to continued sustainability, we are utilising existing production lines close to our raw material suppliers, while plugging into available factory capacity rather than building completely new facilities.

The material mix for the Principle collection includes tile dust, tableware production sludge, glass and ceramics, with each tile saving 8kg of what is traditionally considered ‘waste’ from landfill. As well as 14kg of raw material from extraction. Moreover, because of our unique raw materials we are able to fire at a lower temperature and use less processing, the Principle range is made using 23% less gas compared to a like for like tile.