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The 80:20 rule of sustainable brickmaking

by Ofentse Sefolo
The 80:20 rule of sustainable brickmaking

Dr Garth Tayler, a consultant in ceramic science and heavy clay production, spoke on the 80:20 rule as applied to sustainable brick manufacture.

Sustainable brickmaking

“In my years of experience, I have seen how the 80:20 rule applies to sustainable brickmaking. A vital truth is that 80% of our success comes from our management of raw materials. Yet we often focus so much of our efforts in other areas,” says Dr Tayler.

To be sustainable, you need to focus on raw materials in order to get the best out of the clays you use. This is often one of the last places that is assessed.

Do you really know if you are using the optimum combination of clays and other components in your work mix? An organised programme of analysis and evaluation of clays is the best thing you can do to get the best out of your materials.

Furthermore, next to achieving the optimum blend of clays, the selection of the best and most appropriate technology is vital to long-term success as an industry. The 80:20 rule can also be applied to production processing practices.

Raw material optimisation

Apply a proven three-point procedure for a successful, sustainable outcome:

  1. Use mineralogical analyses (XRD), chemical analyses (XRF) and physical property testing to pinpoint the “bad actors” and the “good actors” in your mix. Then minimise the bad actors – eliminating them when feasible – and work with the good actors to optimise the mix.
  2. Use a test matrix in the laboratory, followed by selected production test runs to find optimum drying and firing properties. Use laboratory procedures first, rather than using your production plant to do tests. A production environment does not always give answers and is disruptive and costly.
  3. Combine the best findings from this organised, systematic approach to achieve the best product result.

Long-term sustainability

It is often thought that going to the detailed efforts that are outlined above is too expensive and not worth the effort. Therefore, the opposite is suggested, as for survival it is worth executing a phased action plan.

Phases of improvement should in summary include:
• Raw material/body mix optimisation.
• Install technology to increase productivity.
• Install appropriate dryer technology.
• Install appropriate kiln technology.
• Review of sustainability annually.

The industry cannot afford to accept high waste levels. Excessive waste of precious, carefully blended materials is not a sustainable practice.

For more information, visit www.claybrick.org/news.

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