Nothing into Something

Dust. Powder. Scraps. Waste. It’s what we first see when we look at our factories, when we pull back the curtain and examine what materials are spent and left over in the manufacturing process. The Waste Lab is a place where we take another look at that dust and ask, “What if?”

What if this waste, bound for the landfill, has hidden value we haven’t explored? What if it simply takes a new way of seeing to find value where now we see waste? What if a manufacturing company can be regenerative? The Waste Lab is where we ask “What if?” and experiment until we find answers; until we turn waste into something meaningful.


Waste Makes Tile, Buttons and More



We’re taking industrial waste and creating high-end tiles for Ann Sacks, with some made from 100% waste materials. Using a collection of secondhand tools and equipment, our small but intrepid team volunteered their collective skills and knowledge to sort and test waste materials, to design and create tile forms and to craft dry-pressed tiles with exquisite glazes. 



Curiosity and imagination have already led us into uncharted waters, and we’re learning more about what’s possible every day. We’re thinking about rammed earth structures and how we could partner with architects and builders. We’re playing with the possibility of making garment buttons from foundry waste and sink scrubbers from coffee grounds. This is just the beginning. 



Dry cull is a by-product of the vitreous process. We put as much dry cull back into production as possible, but a percentage is not suitable for our vitreous china products. This dry clay material makes a great tile body.




Spent or “green” sand is a mix of clay, beach sand, corn cobs, coal and water. It is recycled again and again until the sand particles are too small for the molding process. We’re experimenting with spent sand in our clay bodies, concrete products and for rammed earth building materials.




Some enamel powder falls to the floor and becomes “dirty” during enameling, so we can’t reintroduce it into the process as pure enamel. Instead, we’re using it as a material in our glazes and experimenting to find new color effects.




Foundry dust is made up of fine particles of sand, coal, clay, grinding dust, rust, dirt and some blasted enamel. It is a by-product of nearly every step of cast-iron manufacturing. Foundry dust forms the basis of our clay tile bodies.


Meet Our Team

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Theresa Millard

Project Manager – Sustainability and Stewardship
The inspiration. The glue.

Theresa has been with Kohler since 1988, beginning in the Wisconsin Pottery in artistic and technical development and the supervision of the Artist Editions® production team. She transitioned to industrial design where she worked in both Artist Editions and Sanitary Businesses, and finally has spent the last nine years focused on Kohler Sustainability and Stewardship.

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Jim Neiman

The explorer. The scientist.

Jim has been with Kohler since 1988, beginning as a technician for the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Arts/Industry Program. He later moved into Kohler New Product Development, where he supported numerous teams with artistic and technical support for Artist Editions, Nature’s Chemistry and color development. In his role today, he works as a hands-on technical designer of materials and processes.


Monty Stauffer

Industrial Designer – Waste Lab
The designer. The maker.

Monty has been with Kohler since 2008 working as an Industrial Designer – Material and Process in the decorative products category. He has extensive experience as a practicing artist and designer. He is primarily responsible for the development of new materials, products and processes working as a hands-on designer, as well as supporting others through design, education and outreach of the extended New Product Development community. 


Josh Boyce

Sr. Project Engineer – Waste Lab
The realist. The engineer.

Josh has been with Kohler since 2013 working in various Vitreous New Product Integration and Operations Engineering roles. He has extensive technical experience in material science and ceramic engineering. He provides technical direction for our design efforts and oversees planning, scheduling and coordination of development needs including equipment and materials. He also provides support for education and outreach to the extended New Product Development community.


Good Beginnings


The type of thinking that gives rise to projects like the Waste Lab is nurtured at Kohler through the Innovation for Good (IfG) program. Open to everyone, IfG brings together associates from functions across the company and around the world to develop solutions to real-world problems that can be scaled globally. 



Bringing safe drinking water to the people who need it most.



Designing closed-loop flush toilet systems for people without access to sanitation.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Kohler Waste Lab?

Kohler Waste Lab will create high-value products and services out of industrial wastes, serving as a catalyst for how Kohler understands the material resources used in our processes. 


What does Kohler do with the rest of its waste?

Kohler’s Environment Health and Safety group has participated in Beneficial Reuse Programs for decades, reducing and recycling waste where possible and making it available for use in roadbeds and other construction projects, and as a component in outdoor furniture, countertops and other composite products. What is left goes to Kohler owned and operated landfills.


Are products from the Waste Lab available for purchase?

Our first batch of tiles should be available for purchase from Ann Sacks in 2019. 


Can people tour the Waste Lab?

The Waste Lab is a new kind of factory where learning and collaboration is paramount. Each person brings their passions, skills and drive to make a difference in the world as we progress our understanding of what it means to be a manufacturer, and as we redefine business, production and craftsmanship. Tours will be offered selectively for those interested in partnering with Kohler or learning how to reuse their own industrial waste materials.


Does the Waste Lab partner with other manufacturers or artists?

The Waste Lab just opened in July and is just beginning to make connections with potential manufacturing and design partners. The team is tapping into the expertise of designers and operations associates from across Kohler and is looking to make connections beyond the Kohler walls. The Ann Sacks marketing and sales teams are actively consulting on tile patterns and designs that will appeal to the brand’s discerning customers and are working with the Waste Lab team to plan for a market launch in 2019.


How can I get involved?

To connect with the team to suggest new product ideas or explore partnership opportunities, email us using the online form below.

Name *