What we are about to tell is a ‘circular story’ that recounts a brilliant idea, a firs setback, and then a restart with another brilliant idea. The story of Saxa Gres is set in Anagni, halfway between Rome and Frosinone: a territory that stands out for industrial and engineering excellence, where the components of the Ariane rockets that bring European satellites into orbit are built, and where one of the first models of photovoltaic tiles in the world was born in a factory of ceramic products. This innovative product, ahead of its time, was capable of transforming the sun’s rays into energy without wind, rain or hailstorms being able to stop it.
But the green revolution was late and the hi-tech brick, capable of being an inexhaustible source of electricity for our homes, was still far from becoming a mass product, so the Anagni plant found itself sailing in bad waters and had to suspend its activity. At least until 2015, when another brilliant idea peeps out in that of Frosinone. There is another component of the circular supply chain that could work as a raw material for a new best-selling product: we talk a lot about urban waste and waste-to-energy plants, so why not try to enhance the materials fruit of this differentiation and recycling path? The result is an almost unique product, and this was exactly what was needed and just enough to reignite the ovens and bring the workers back to the factory.
The new product is called Grestone (registered trademark), and it is composed of a mixture of ingredients of porcelain stoneware and materials from the combustion of solid urban waste. Moreover, it looks in all aspects to a dear old ‘sanpietrino’ (an Italian type of cobblestone), it has the same square shape, the same consistency, and the same durability. The product is also available in different colors since the pigment can be mixed directly with other raw materials before entering the furnace at over 1,200 degrees. It is perfect, for example, to build pedestrian crossings (the classic white stripes) that will last over time and not discolor. An idea that has been seen appearing in more than a few Italian crossings and that allows municipalities to save money since they do not have to repaint the stripes periodically. Therefore, it has been very successful abroad where SaxaGres exports its Grestone in large quantities.
But there is more to tell about the green chain of this phoenix that is reborn from the ashes. Within the production cycle of all the Saxa group’s porcelain stoneware, the grinding of the components takes places “dry” to reduce the environmental impact by consuming much less water and producing less processing waste. In the same way the plant is powered also thanks to the energy produced by gas generated from biomass: again, a virtuous effect of the circular economy of waste. Then, of course, maximum attention is paid to the emissions and the filtering of potential pollutants generated throughout all the production process.
Business is running well. Saxa Gres, under the guidance of the President Francesco Borgomeo, starts again and manages to expand. Other plants are acquired, such as the ‘Ideal Standard’ one and hundreds of jobs were saved and created. Francesco Borgomeo is a sort of son of art: his family is originally from Formia and owned the famous furnaces (Fornaci) that supplied all of central and southern Italy with bricks. After his studies in Rome, New York, and Dublin, Borgomeo decided that the future of the ceramics had to lay its foundations on green tech. The Saxa Group is now working at full speed in Anagni, Roccasecca e Gualdo Tadino: all the plants are being converted to the new environmentally friendly production cycle, in search of maximum efficiency to churn out quality products with highly competitive prices on the international market.
A challenge that Saxa Gres has decided to take with an ambitious investment plan worth 27.5 million euros that fits perfectly into the green new deal project that the Italian Government and the European authorities are launching for the next Horizon Europe program of UE investments in the member states. Of this investment: 10 million euros is a first tranche guaranteed by SACE and underwritten by illimity together with a series of local banking institutions; and 17.5 million euros are loans guaranteed for 9 million euros by the Guaranteed Fund – Mediocredito Central and for 8.5 million euros by SACE. The investments made by Saxa Gres are, however, well above this amount, which is largely financed with the bond issue, as well as the financing measures received. The history of the Italian brick and ceramics finds its roots in the Roman Empire and before that in the civilizations that preceded it: now the task set by SaxaGres, A2A, illimity, SACE and obviously the President Francesco Borgomeo, is to lead this tradition in a future made of technology, innovation, and respect for the environment. A different way of doing industry and of generating profit for the investors and wealth for the territory. It is a way to create new jobs and new development opportunities by focusing on sustainability and, as in the case of Saxa Gres, on the circular economy.