31 October 2023

New sustainable factory in Ílhavo has ECOGRÉS+NG project in its basis

New sustainable factory in Ílhavo has ECOGRÉS+NG project in its basis

The ECOGRÉS+NG project led at the University of Aveiro by Professor Paula Seabra from CICECO – Aveiro Institute of Materials and the DEMAC – Department of Materials and Ceramic Engineering at the University of Aveiro, was completed in February 2021 and resulted in the Ecogrés product line. To validate the concept of a circular economy in the utilitarian pottery industry, they investigated and developed the grés paste, which resulted from the incorporation of industrial waste and byproducts generated in the production process of Grestel and other companies. The commercial success achieved, with 900,000 euros in sales volume in 2021, led to increased investment in the Ecogrés product line and the construction of a new manufacturing facility with 14,000 m2.

The infrastructure was inaugurated on October 25th, with the presence of the Minister of Territorial Cohesion, Ana Abrunhosa, and the Mayor of Ílhavo, João Campolargo. The event made national headlines and highlighted Ecogres - the ecological ceramics factory of the Costa Nova group - as an example of sustainability and an economic driver, creating 150 jobs.

In an interview with Jornal Expresso, the founder and CEO of the Costa Nova group, Miguel Casal, stated that the factory, specializing in producing tableware from recycled raw materials, is "one of the most sustainable fine grés factories in the world." He also mentioned that multiple industries can help the new unit create its raw materials, but those should remain confidential to protect the formula developed during the collaborative research with the University of Aveiro. Regarding the scientific process associated with the technology, Paula Seabra, the lead researcher for ECOGRÉS+NG at the University of Aveiro, spoke to SIC, explaining the process behind the project, which has received numerous sustainability awards.

She emphasized that the university has equipment that the industry doesn't have, which is crucial for research. As a professor in the Department of Materials and Ceramic Engineering, she explained that in a university setting, it's possible to "study what happens when we introduce waste into a paste, manipulate the quantities introduced, and consequently, the composition of the paste that incorporates the waste to obtain products with the desired aesthetic and technical characteristics. Understanding the materials science that supports the technology is very important to then scale up the solutions." Achieving a new product is very rewarding, she noted, as it doesn't happen very often.

The recent events are the culmination of a co-promotion project application that originated in 2020 and a master's proposal developed by a student at Grestel. The project was divided into two parts, initially focusing on the incorporation and valorization of Grestel's waste and, in a second phase, on the incorporation of waste from other companies.

Applied research projects like ECOGRÉS+NG are a paradigmatic example that allows for a deeper and fundamental understanding of the technological processes developed, even though they typically do not permit the publication of research results in high-impact factor journals, where more fundamental research has more space. However, the researcher emphasizes that both types of research are necessary in an academic environment.

Media Coverage:

  1. Jornal de Notícias (JN)
  2. SIC Notícias
  3. Expresso

Gretel - ECOGRÉS

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