Cleaner brick production in Uruguay

Within the framework of the UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Uruguay, the Coalition's Solution Centre funded the participation of experts in the first international event on Cleaner Production and Formalization of Brick Production Activities in Pando, Uruguay in May 2019, and field visits to the departments of Pando, Florida and Rivera. Experts from key CCAC implementing institutions working with the brick sector, including from the Environmental Business Corporation (CAEM), the Centre for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA), the National Institute of Technology (INT) of Brazil, and MINTEC CERAMIC Colombia participated. They provided expertise in the areas of public policy, the use of raw material for brick production, and cleaner, more efficient kiln technologies and fuel use.


The assistance provided to Uruguay aimed at providing input to Uruguay's planning process to address black carbon and other pollutants from the brick sector and to address the informality of the sector. In particular, this activity supported recommendations on: 

  • Cost-effective control measures that brick makers can implement, including basic retrofits in the production processes, that can lead to significant reductions in black carbon and other pollutants. 
  • Public policy actions for cleaner brick production with the aim of improving the environmental and competitiveness performance of the sector, including issues around formalization, social welfare for the workers and benefits to health. 

In Uruguay, approximately 14.000 families are involved in artisanal brick production. According to non-official statistics there could be around 4.000 to 5.000 brick production units distributed across the country, using traditional methods. 

Making bricks the traditional way is an art that requires several stages. First the elements are obtained to make the raw material: water, soil, clay, sand, and organic matter such as horse dung. This material is mixed and put into moulds, then laid out to dry for three days. Then they are baked in an oven, with firewood serving as the main fuel, for between two and seven days, and allowed to cool. Four days later they are ready for sale. At each stage of the process, there are abundant occupational hazards and environmental impacts. 

Uruguay's brick sector is characterized by a high rate of informality and is socially vulnerable. Lacking other sources of fuel, many times wood from protected species of trees are burnt to bake the bricks, generating emissions of particulate matter, black carbon and other pollutants that contribute to climate change and poor air quality. 

Uruguay forms part of UN PAGE and through this programme has been supporting the policy design process to address issues around artisanal brick production, giving specific attention to decent work and environmental practices. 

Artisanal brickmakers put the raw material into a mold, and then lay it out to dry. Photo: Pablo Montes Goia