Life+, the new European program for the financial support of products and technologies that protect the environment, was established by (EC) Regulation N° 614/2007 of the European Parliament and Council of 23/05/2007. It took over from the previous LIFE programme (Environment, Nature and Third Countries), the Community Framework Program for cooperation for sustainable urban development, the Community action program for the promotion of non-governmental Organizations dedicated to environmental protection issues and the Forest focus program. The goal of LIFE+ is to contribute towards the development, implementation and updating of Community policy and legislation in the environmental sector. LIFE+ co-finances actions with European added value in favour of the environment of the European Union and certain third countries. The projects can be proposed by public and private institutes, organizations or operators. LIFE+ comprises three different subjects: Nature and Biodiversity. The Nature projects contribute towards the implementation and development of the “Birds”, “Habitat” directives and the Natura 2000 network. The Biodiversity projects focus on innovative practices able to stop the loss of biodiversity in Europe. Environmental policy and governance. Supports innovative or demo projects concerning pioneering solutions relating to important environmental issues. Information and communication. Supports projects that deal with communication actions and campaigns to arouse awareness about environmental issues, as well as training initiatives and campaigns for the prevention of forest fires.


GLAZING is the process whereby a liquid mixture called GLAZE is applied to the surface of the body material so as to create the final appearance of the tile. Currently, the most widely used glaze is based on lead, a substance that is extremely harmful for both the environment and man’s health. The lead-free glazes now available on the market are only used to a small extent as they are somewhat difficult to apply (higher temperatures are required to achieve the same viscosity) and are not so attractive as to appearance (less glossy, tendency to turn grey, presence of residual porosity). Thus the aim of the project is to create lead-free ceramic glazes by using boron instead; glazes with the same quality and characteristics as the lead-based ones and able to achieve an extremely attractive tile finish. This by creating a demo pilot system so as to consolidate the technique.



The Ascot Group has always paid great attention to the surrounding environment and to the health of its workers. So much so, it has decided to do its utmost to reduce the environmental impact of its ceramic production activities. This policy gave rise to the “LEAD-COLOURED LEAD-FREE” project, which obtained an important recognition and funds from the European Commission through the LIFE+ financial support programme. Still in its initial phase, the project will show how boron-based lead-free glazes can be used instead of lead-based glazes in the ceramic industry and how the quality and characteristics of the resulting products are identical to those of products made with traditional glazes, thereby overcoming all the current problems concerning the application and appearance of such glazes. Owing to the volatile characteristics of boron, the new process will take place in two stages: creation of a new type of frit – fusion of a dry mixture of raw materials, essential if well-vitrified glaze is to be obtained – without lead compounds but based on boron, pre-stabilized at a low temperature with silica and sodium oxide and then mixed only afterwards in a rotary kiln with other glaze components.


The project will develop through various different tasks including management and monitoring, technical development and publication of the results.

Implementation actions

  1. Choice of blends to use for the development of new boron-based frits.
  2. Research, project engineering and creation of a highly refining prototype grinding plant.
  3. Research, project engineering and execution of modifications to the frit kiln and relative processing cycle.
  4. Preparation of a new, highly workable boron-based frit and preparation of coloured glazes based on this new frit.
  5. Assembly of the pilot line and operating tests.

Management and monitoring actions

  1. Overall management of the project – technical and administrative organization of the entire project.
  2. Monitoring – control of the targets and results achieved.
  3. Audit – assessment of compliance with the tax regulations and common provisions of LIFE.

Publication actions

  1. Networking – creation of a network able to reach and involve a great number of different types of stakeholders.
  2. Dissemination – implementation of actions able to disseminate the results, awareness of the environmental problem and promotion of the LIFE+ financial instrument.
  3. After LIFE Plan – continuation of activities able to disseminate both the results obtained and future developments of the technology.



The project will develop through various different tasks including management and monitoring, technical development and publication of the results. – Total elimination of lead – Lower plant and running costs – Ability to store the new frits for long periods of time – New frits that continue to be workable for a long period of time – High standards for both quality and finished appearance


Our endeavour to create a boron-based test glaze able to completely replace lead in ceramic frits is becoming a tangible reality. Close collaboration between our technicians, those of Colorobbia S.p.A. and the University of Modena allowed us to single out the raw materials required (Action 5). We have also identified their characteristics, i.e. the particle size of the powders, thanks to which the various different components are able to combine into a single homogeneous frit that stabilizes the boron and allows it to be used instead of lead, without problems concerning volatility and the consequent loss of weight that characterizes this chemical element. All this led to research into the best combination of grinding media and processing parameters, covered by Action 6 of the proposal, which was also brought to a successful conclusion at the end of last year. The first dry grinding process produced powders of the required particle size with the least waste (coarser particles). The second, wet, grinding process to which the frits are subjected creates the raw material for the new lead-free glazes. The first firing tests for raw materials produced by the dry grinding process and the second firing tests for the frit obtained (Action 7 of the proposal) have also terminated. These tests were performed in collaboration with Colorobbia S.p.A. and formed the starting point for experiments with the new glazes, which commenced last 1 January (Action 8 of the project). Preparation of the new glazes and decorating tests on single-fired, twice-fired ceramic, porcelain stoneware and material subjected to the third-firing process will be concluded by summer along with a critical assessment of the results. Construction of a pilot line dedicated to experiments with the new glazes also began on 1 January.



Last 6 June, Ceramiche Ascot took part in an event organized in collaboration with the University of Siena during which it presented the “LEAD-COLOURED LEAD-FREE” project and celebrated the 20th anniversary of the LIFE Programme. We also took part in Italy’s Cersaie 2012 trade fair and America’s Coverings 2012, where we were able to report on how the project was progressing and the work performed, arousing the interest of a great number of stakeholders.


Project Manager Del Sante Filippo