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All of the raw materials that we use in our clay bodies and glazes are mined for industry, not potters. Potters make up less than 1% of the usage. That's why we often see materials we love go away- if industry doesn't need them, the potters can't buy enough to keep the mine open. Mines are big holes in the ground, not pretty, not good for the planet. The factories that process the raw materials and package them so we have clean, pure bags of minerals pollute the air either directly through their machinery that runs on some sort of fossil fuel, or indirectly through the use of electricity that comes from power plants that pollute. There is pollution from the transport of the raw materials to the clay companies that mix the clay bodies, and more pollution from their machinery. There is further pollution from transporting the clay to your house, and yet more from your kilns, both from the fumes coming out of the kiln, and the byproducts of the energy needed to fire the kiln. We use metal, plastic, and rubber tools that wear out and must be replaced regularly. We use both synthetic and natural sponges. We have to heat our studios, and drive our cars to and from the art fairs and galleries. We buy kilns and other equipment. We use up grinding discs and sandpaper. We us plastic tubs and buckets. It is a craft that requires consumption on many different levels.

We potters tend to have a very romanticized view of what we do because we have a fairly intimate connection with the earth due to the fact that all of our materials come from the earth. However, we tend to overlook that fact that what we are really doing is part of a long chain of industrial processes. We are producing a product and selling it; it's really no different than making shoes or windshield wipers when it comes right down to it. We're just doing it on a smaller scale, with 'natural' materials rather than plastics. Unless you dig your own clay, process it without machinery, and fire a kiln by solar power, you are polluting. And even then the digging of the clay is ruining the landscape on some scale. It is unavoidable that we do do has an environmental impact.

So yes, we should do as much as we can to reduce our impact on the planet from ceramics. Will that really have an impact in the big picture? Probably not. Slightly increased production by the ceramics industry will easily wipe out whatever benefits we potters can produce. So in those terms I don't worry much about not recycling my clay, especially because it's something that will dramatically affect my bottom line, and I have bills to pay and a family to feed. But I do not have that attitude about everything I do; it's just one of the tradeoffs that is necessary in my situation. I do my best to reduce environmental impact in all the other areas that I can, and that's all we can expect from anyone. It's not possible to be environmentally perfect. It's about doing your best under your specific circumstances. As long as we all put forth some effort towards being good stewards of this planet, we're moving forward, and things will improve.

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Well written  Neil and all true.  I'm (mostly) simply shocked at the hypocrisy of some activists (none of you) who shout about "save the planet" and can't go out of their way or be inconvenienced by their own proclamations.  Putting clay out with the trash sends unwanted material to the landfill.  Ever seen your favorite landscape go under a landfill?  It's always the unintended consequences that bite the hardest.  If you're trimming a lot, you should (IMO) figure out another design that doesn't require much trim, or find a worthwhile use for the scrap.

Before the technologies that you describe so well, I'm guessing from my research that ceramics was largely a slave labor process.  The human cost in terms of physical damage must have been high.  Only the technologies such as mass scale mining have enabled it to be moved to the hobby/enjoyable activity category.

My commentary isn't intended to suggest any of us can make a real contribution,  It's the attitude, "I'll just throw it away" as a first and best option that I'm questioning.  Remember, we're talking about Ideas, not people.  I'm not poking at anyone personally. 

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11 minutes ago, CactusPots said:

Well written  Neil and all true.  I'm (mostly) simply shocked at the hypocrisy of some activists (none of you) who shout about "save the planet" and can't go out of their way or be inconvenienced by their own proclamations.  Putting clay out with the trash sends unwanted material to the landfill.  Ever seen your favorite landscape go under a landfill?  It's always the unintended consequences that bite the hardest.  If you're trimming a lot, you should (IMO) figure out another design that doesn't require much trim, or find a worthwhile use for the scrap.

Before the technologies that you describe so well, I'm guessing from my research that ceramics was largely a slave labor process.  The human cost in terms of physical damage must have been high.  Only the technologies such as mass scale mining have enabled it to be moved to the hobby/enjoyable activity category.

My commentary isn't intended to suggest any of us can make a real contribution,  It's the attitude, "I'll just throw it away" as a first and best option that I'm questioning.  Remember, we're talking about Ideas, not people.  I'm not poking at anyone personally. 

Maybe some was slave labor at some time in some places.  But there are Japanese pottery towns that still make a community effort to harvest clay from the hillside right in town and process it all as a community and split the clay amongst all the potters.  I'm gonna be optimistic and say that it was probably how it was done traditionally worldwide for thousands of years because there wasn't the sort of global scale/demand or industrialization of pottery until the 1800s?  

Edited by liambesaw

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12 minutes ago, CactusPots said:

Before the technologies that you describe so well, I'm guessing from my research that ceramics was largely a slave labor process.  The human cost in terms of physical damage must have been high.  Only the technologies such as mass scale mining have enabled it to be moved to the hobby/enjoyable activity category.

Definitely slave labor in some areas, apprentice labor in others, family labor in others. Simple machinery powered by mules or horses, lots of human labor, more time spent processing clay than making pots, probably. It definitely wasn't a hobby until recently.

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Donating sounds like a reasonable alternative.... although if you’re willing to put in the physical labor you can slab dry your clay and wedge it to conserve more energy and in turn lower the cost.... but that is A LOT of physical labor if it’s for a whole studio... you could have people reclaim their own clay manually.... but don’t just toss the clay out... as was mentioned, someone puts in a lot of work to get that clay... and not always through ethical means, so the more we can do to lessen the amount of clay we acquire, the better...

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