iStock_000015113793Small.jpg Ceramic and porcelain tiles are beautiful and functional additions to homes. They can be found covering floors, lining shower stalls, even placed on walls for decoration. But when you are finished with any ceramic and porcelain tiles in your home, is there any way to recycle them? Places that recycle ceramic and porcelain tiles exist, but they are rare. Unless you live in a community that happens to have a ceramic or porcelain recycling company, you are better off trying to think about ways to reuse them.

What are ceramic and porcelain tiles made of? has a helpful description of the differences between ceramic and porcelain tile. Both are made with clay, but ceramic tiles also have sand mixed in. Porcelain tile tends to be made with denser clay than ceramic. That and a long, hot firing process makes it harder (and more fragile) than ceramic. The vast majority of tile sold in the United States is made with either ceramic or porcelain. Plenty of other household items are made with ceramic and porcelain. Many dishes and decorative items are made with ceramic. Dolls and other figurines, vases, china dish sets and toilets are made out of porcelain.

How to recycle ceramic tile

Places that recycle ceramic tile are few and far between, but they do exist. Crossville Tile in Tennessee claims to be the first company in its industry to offer a ceramic and porcelain tile take-back program. The business accepts its tile for recycling and will take back tiles made by other manufacturers if the person who removed the tiles purchased new Crossville tile. The business has a couple of other restrictions, including that tile formerly installed in a home must have no more than a quarter of an inch of cement mortar still attached to it. People who send the tile to the company are responsible for paying the shipping charge. For more about Crossville Tile’s program, check out this link.

How to recycle porcelain tile

Porcelain tile recyclers are equally challenging to find. One of the best examples of a porcelain tile recycler is Fireclay Tile in northern California. It recently launched a program to recycle porcelain from the transfer stations in San Francisco and San Jose. The business takes the porcelain to its facility, crushes it and uses it in its appropriately named Debris Series tiles. With this new source of porcelain, Fireclay’s tiles contain 70 percent recycled content, 50 percent of which is post-consumer. Photographs on the blog post announcing the program shows the company picking up old toilets (which are notoriously hard to recycle), but it seems safe to assume the business is taking porcelain tile as well. The other option for recycling porcelain tile is to see if your town has a company that recycles porcelain toilets. Give them a call and ask them if they are interested in your old tiles. Broken up toilets can be used for road aggregate, which is the material that goes under roads to help stabilize them.

How to reuse ceramic and porcelain tile

In the likely event that you cannot find a ceramic or porcelain tile recycler in your community, you can always reuse your old tile. If the tile has never been installed in your home, consider donating it to a building reuse organization or another charity. Hundreds of communities have Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Many more have private organizations that take secondhand building supplies and sell them to people. If you like your tile and want to reuse it – or do not want to see it end up in a landfill – it may be possible to remove it and use it over again. If you choose to go this route, the key things you need to do are (a) remove the tile without breaking it, and (b) invest time in removing the old mortar. A blog called The Dollar Stretcher has detailed instructions describing how to remove tiles so you can reuse them. Pinterest has plenty of ideas for using old ceramic and porcelain tiles. Pour concrete stepping stones and press tiles into them to make lovely, functional garden accents. Attach them to the sides of large planters. Use them to make hopscotch patterns for children. My favorite is an item for adults – a giant outdoor Scrabble board made by placing tiles in a patio, then printing letters on an additional set of tiles to spell out words. Let your imagination run wild when reusing tiles for these purposes. You can always paint, stamp or otherwise decorate them to make beautiful items for your home or yard. It is possible that your old ceramic and porcelain tiles will break when you remove them from your bathroom or kitchen. If that happens, you can use the fragments to make mosaics or put them in the bottom of potted plants to help with drainage.