© All rights reserved, 2020

A project by Hanne Viehmann | hanne.viehmann@network.rca.ac.uk



recycling bhar to gain innovative materials

The concept "recycling the used cups", visualised through the Sustainability Fader, appeared to be the most potential and low culturally disrupting strategy.


Experimental research on the ceramic material "low-fired clay" resulted in two new materials which show similar properties to the material categories gravel and grog.

scope of application

ground bhar


Different material experiments resulted in two material properties: the used cups are ground in two grain sizes into a fine powder and a fine sand


Fine powder

If the low-fired clay is ground into a fine powder, it can be used in the ceramic industry as grog. This grog, mixed with clay or porcelain, has the effect of controlling a specific behaviour during the firing process: it reduces shrinkage and distortion of the ceramic product. This material option needs some further on-site experimenting, but it is for example a solution to decrease the clay quantity and to improve the quality during rainy seasons.

Grog is sold on the European market by the pottery supplier called Scarva for 0.66 Euro/kg. Accordingly, the recycled bhars made into grog equal an economic value of 99,000 Euro per day and around 36 million Euro per year. To demonstrate the possibility to combine the recycled bhar with porcelain two types of reusable cups have been conceptualized and realised in prototypes.


The first image shows a product using the fine powder to enhance the clay properties during the production. The packaging is made out of a water-soluble, organic foil which can be easily applied and wedged into the clay. It enhances the quantity and improves the quality by reducing humidity.


The second image visualises the use of the fine powder as grog. This ceramic additive is used to control distortion and shrinkage during the firing process, to add decorative elements and to enhance the quantity of the raw material.


If the low-fired clay is ground into a fine sand, it can be used in different consumer goods for various sustainable solutions. To control air or water quality, innovative products use sand to filter the medium. Sand is also one of the most precious resources and is used in certain qualities in construction to build houses. A single-family house needs around 150 tonnes of sand mixed with cement. Because of the fast-growing cities in India, the sand business turned to be highly political and resulted in an illegal business, the Indian sand mafia, which is the biggest criminal organisation in India.

Terracotta gravel is sold on the European market by a German construction supplier called BauSep for 0.26 Euro/kg. Accordingly, the recycled bhars made into gravel equal an economic value of 39,000 Euro per day and around 14 million Euro per year.

new values

making bhar sustainable

Preserving bhar and its product culture



Recycling the disposed cups

Indian politicians intent to replacing plastic and paper cups with the ones made of low-fired clay. They plan to produce 5 million cups per day, each weighing 30 grammes, which causes a daily waste of 150 tonnes in total in India. Recycling this resource would generate a new economic value and of course a decrease in soil pollution.


Creating new materials for innovative designs

The two material innovations stand for a new generation of designs made in India. They can be used for various design solutions — effective, cheap, and available in a high amount in entire India.


Creating a new economic value to re-invest in the heritage

The material solutions create a new economic value which can be used to re-invest in the product culture to preserve bhar.


creating a circular economy for the cup

The simplicity of the cup's process and material properties allow an easy to implement circular economy of bhar.


focusing on the sustainable customer behaviour and cultural needs

The product cultures of bhar includes the act of throwing the cup on the ground after use. Celebrating this behaviour and focusing on the move of throwing away could highlight a recycling behaviour and influence the general waste habits and manners.



India administers its future according to the UN sustainable development goals. The nation is facing a rapid growth of population up to 5.1 billion people by 2050 and an extreme development of urban environments, building four new mega cities. Waste management and conscious behaviour are topics which need to be thought through when creating the new urban surrounding.

waste strategy

sustainable strategy


The strategy includes the waste management of the disposed cups, the process to create the new materials and the distribution of the new materials to local designers and to future solutions.