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How To Recycle Your Clay

As you work with clay, you will definitely have a lot of unused materials. You can simply dump them down the drain, but chances are you're contributing to environmental waste. It also can wreak havoc on your plumbing, sewer and septic systems. So, instead of dumping them, you can recycle them back into usable clay again. If the scraps haven’t dried out too much and are in the perfect state, you can re-work them without having too much fuss.

But what if the scraps are either too dry or too wet?

The easiest way is to use a pug mill, but we know that not everybody could afford such equipment. That’s why in this post we would like to help you figure out how to recycle your clay by hand and give you some tips on reclaiming your clay without a lot of hassle.

STEP 1: Collect and Store your Scraps of Clay

First, divide your scraps into types based on the same types of clay and the same stage. That means terracotta leatherhard in one bucket and stoneware in another. Then put them in a bucket. Allow the scraps to dry completely, but make sure that any large pieces are already broken into smaller bits. Smaller pieces will slake down faster and more thoroughly than large chunks.

STEP 2: Submerge into Water

After the scraps dried completely, soak them into water. Don’t stir and let the water do its job. It will slake and give you a bucket of slurry. Then let it sit for hours to a couple days, depending on the condition.

STEP 3: Move to a Water-Absorbent Surface

After it’s mixed and slurry, spread a thin layer (2-inches or so thick at most) of that slip-like scraps onto an absorbent surface like plaster bats, wedging tables, wooden tables or a wide container. Let it rest for several days. The clay will slowly dry and thicken to a sludge-like consistency. Flip the clay over occasionally until it reaches the perfect consistency for wedging.

STEP 4: Wedge and Store

After it reaches the wedging consistency, you can just simply wedge them and store in your usual container. They’re ready to use!

How about recycling bisqueware?

Technically bisqueware is an extremely dry leatherhard piece. Not every bisqueware can be recycled into usable clay anymore, depending on the type of clay. For greenware it takes a lot longer to soak the pieces, approximately from weeks to a month. But a common way to make use of your bisqueware waste is to make it as a glaze test. So whenever you have new glaze colors arriving or other experiments you love to try, you can do it on your unused bisqueware.

Are ceramic pieces that are twice fired still recyclable?

Sometimes people get bored with their ceramic pieces and don’t know what to do with it. Or in some studios, there are lots of cracked or failed ceramics. Ceramic pieces that are done can’t be recycled, but you can upcycle them and turn into something nice. You can turn broken ceramics into mosaics or you can use them in stepping stones in the garden. You can also put small pieces in the bottom of potted plants to help with drainage. Also if you’re into jewelry, you can use those broken ceramics or old pottery to make necklaces or other jewelry. You can use your creativity to upcycle them, in order to help reduce waste in your ceramic production. Not only that, you’re also contributing to a less-waste world!

So what do you think? Have you ever recycled or upcycled your ceramic waste? Share your thoughts and experiences with us!

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