Recycling V Reuse – Not as simple as you think

Q: Ceramic tile sample recycling?
Do you know of any depots who collect unused ceramic tile samples?
As an architectural practice, we get lots of samples and companies are often very reluctant to pick up samples once the job is complete or if the sample is redundant.
This seems a huge waste (especially for any re-use enthusiasts!) and I am keen not to throw the tiles to landfill.
I'd appreciate any advice you can give me.
I often have to ask offices if they are recycling and they show me the waste bins labelled recycling.
I have to point out that this is only waste segregation and that they have to be buying recycled for the loop to be closed before they can claim they are recycling.
If the answer is no we don’t use recycled paper then I question that as well, is that because they feel it’s inferior?
Do you think that some other kind of person has to use recycled so you don’t?
Are they 'hippy-types' or 'normal-types'?
They may rethink and I hope they join in.
So, do you use recycled?
So I have to ask you if you have the opportunity to reuse the samples yourselves in your work or in your office.
And not rely on the reuse enthusiasts to do your bit for you.
So I ask you if you have no use for them, or cannot design them into something, do you expect there is someone out there with the design talent to put them to use?
Alvar Alto? Yes
So, do you design to reuse, with enthusiasm?
They make bases for coffee cups, kettles, planters, bins
So, will you use them to park your coffee and save the wooden surfaces?
The company rep used a tank full of petrol to bring you your sample
The company rep probably has 50 more samples in the boot of the car so he does not need to leave them at home.
The CO2 and pollution released was bad enough, but the extra weight means it’s worse, 
Now you want him to collect it from you.
He will have to obtain a Waste Carriers Licence at great cost and time to the company.
Under your Duty of care you will both have to complete a Waste Transfer Note with description and European Waste Code number and both sign it.
You will need to check with the EA that his licence is valid and current.
What will he do with the waste sample?
Fortunately the tile is inert so the landfill tax (£3/tonne) gate costs (£15/tonne), will be relatively low and disposal simple.
He will use half a tank of petrol to take it to the nearest inert waste landfill site
He will be rejected at the gate, for being too light to weigh in and out.
The domestic recycling centre will reject him for being a business waste handler.
Dejected he will take it home using another half tank of petrol and illegally put it in the domestic waste bin.
The next morning racked with guilt he will take it out of the domestic bin and take it to the office or the factory for them to put it in the commercial waste bin.
The QA man will raise a reject notice and ensure it does not find its way into the factory outputs.
After 6 months quarantine it will do into the bin and end up in mixed waste at a mixed waste landfill site with landfill tax at (£35/tonnes) Gate costs of (£85/tonne)
So, will you do your bit to save the planet and put it in the commercial office bin?
On a more entrepreneurial note there are probably a lot of similar samples out there is many offices.
Have you considered setting up a business to bring them all to one location to enable sets of similar things to be assembled and then sold as sets of similar but small quantities?
My suspicion is that the Dragons Den might not offer you any money.
They could be sent to manufacturers who need recycled content.
NISP could be encouraged to join up the parties. 
Then there are manufacturers of tiles that use recycled content.
So, do you specify any ceramic tiles because they have recycled content?
Amazingly there are charities out there that help the poor and the thrifty to put materials to reuse, some specialise in single materials like timber, I don’t know any that specialise in tiles.
Then there are charities that reclaim and resell anything.
So, do you support charities by buying from their shops?
So would be give the samples to the charities then buy them back and feel good for the rest of the day?
There are even companies that take waste skips and turn them out and sell the contents.
So, will any of your projects use materials from a materials exchange site?
There are salvage yards that buy ornate hand crafted pieces and ceramic tiles and bricks
So, will you search for the ones that have similar samples to yours and donate yours to them to make a bigger set?
We in the UK Construction Industry throw away 10m tonnes of over ordered and never needed materials worth £1.5bn every year.
Enough to fill Wembley stadium 3 times a year,
Not offcuts and damage and not packaging, all new goods unused.
We also throw away 30% of 80m tonnes per annum as offcuts because we don’t acknowledge the size of stuff when we design buildings
We let some of it get nicked, 20% by BRE data, from site in white vans to do PJs at the weekend.
The rest gets skipped and thrown away
There is so much out there that 50 single tile samples will not make much difference.
So, will you add yours to the office bin?
There is now an equivalent to eBay for construction materials
There is also Freecycling.
So will you photograph each of your 50 tiles and add their details to eBay?
One day your grandchildren might be buying your tiles on the black market to make plinths to stand on in the flood plains of North West Eurolantic.
It is difficult but getting better very slowly despite the EA.
Good luck and keep me informed of progress in your quest.



I make sculptures made from new and recycled tiles, and from reclaimed and found objects. I justify the new tiles (used in Mobius Wickes) by saying that the piece could be taken apart and the components used for their intended purpose!

The pieces were recently shown at the TNG Youth Centre in Sydenham by RCKa Architects as part of the Sydenham Arts Festival. The young people at TNG appeared more interested in the sculpture than the art types who normally visit these events—giving their own names to Mobius Wickes: DNA, doughnut, accordion, snake.

Please see more at or contact for more details.

I help to run 2 mosaic making groups, We use old wall tiles (thinner and easier to cut, nibble and file than floor tiles) to make mosaics. We always need tiles, but not in large quantities, just lots of different colours. We get some commissions, but mostly do work that appeals to us. We are attached to 2 charities, and in one of the groups most folk have a disability.
We have struggled to beg suitable tiles off tile selling outlets. I will try freecycle. It is easier to beg back-boards of mdf or ply,
Howard Bolland (retired Architect)

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