Creating beauty from ‘waste’

Posted on Aug 31, 2020 :: Home Made
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Kohler Co.’s WasteLAB takes materials, such as dust, powder and scraps, previously bound for the landfill and creates something new. Launched in 2013 as part of the company’s Innovation for Good program, one of the lab’s first ideas was to take materials coming in from Kohler’s manufacturing lines and create a line of tiles by partnering with Ann Sacks, a decorative brand owned by Kohler.

The result is the Ann Sacks Crackle Collection by Kohler, which launched in April 2019 and is available through the designer’s showrooms.

The tile is made from waste streams from Kohler’s Wisconsin Pottery and cast iron divisions. Some of the materials include pottery dry cull, a byproduct of making toilets; waste glaze, which is collected from the overspray of toilets and sinks in the pottery division; enamel powder from various areas; and cast iron slag from the melting of scrap iron materials.

After the clay is pressed, WasteLAB artisans hand-cut each tile, remove excess and apply an interactive glaze. The result is a delicate crackle that carries across the tile face when fired, says DeeDee Gundberg, Ann Sacks’ director of product development and design.

“The WasteLAB story is what makes (the tiles) stand out the most. But the strength of the palette, the vibrancy of the colors and the density of the crackle really set the collection apart,” she says.
The WasteLAB team worked closely with Gundberg’s team to develop the tile designs and glazes.

“Ann Sacks is part of Kohler’s family of decorative brands, so it made sense to explore product synergies,” says Theresa Millard, product manager and co-founder of WasteLAB, Kohler Co.

— MaryBeth Matzek