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Recycled Glass Countertops

Lots Of Choices For A Greener Countertop

Recycled glass countertops are a unique surface option that offers a new angle on both style and material use. If the more "conventional" countertop materials like granite, solid surface or laminate don't appeal to you and you're looking for something with a unique look, it's worth it to take a closer look at recycled glass.

There are several forms of recycled glass countertops and they're made using different materials. The glass is the common element among them but it's what's "mixed in" (or not) with the recycled glass that's different.

Some products use a cement-based material whereas others use a resin formula. Then there's the "all glass" versions that simply use recycled glass alone to form new solid glass counters. Each has their own set of attributes but like other products for your home, they're not perfect so you'll want to understand what they offer and how they might or might not fit into your lifestyle.

Get familiar with how they look, what they're made of and how they compare to other types of countertop surfaces to determine if they're a good option for your kitchen or bath.

Just What Are Recycled Glass Countertops?

Recycled glass countertops take on a couple of forms. The bulk of the products in this classification are a combination of crushed glass (glass chips) held together in a binder material. Think of a chocolate chip cookie; the chocolate chips represent the glass and the cookie dough is the "binder".

recycled glass countertopsPhoto Courtesy of Glass Recycled

Most of the recycled glass countertop makers that are producing products under this category make terrazzo or "chip based" surfaces, combining recycled glass chips with a binder matrix.

But there are also recycled glass countertops that are homogeneous, solid pieces of glass. They look more like "regular" glass countertops but some or all of the glass is manufactured from recycled content.

They're less common and offer a completely different look than the terrazzo-type products. You can get them from makers of glass countertops and architectural glass.

Two Kinds Of Binders

Terrazzo style glass surfacing products can be grouped into two basic categories based on the kind of binders used:
  • Cement Based - these products use a cementitious matrix like Portland cement to bind the recycled glass chips together
  • Resin Based - these counters use a resin matrix, a product in the plastics family, as their binder

This might not seem like a big deal but it's an important distinction because each material requires different levels of maintenance and reacts differently to the things (foods, solutions and cleaners) they'll come in contact with.

recycled glass countertopsPhoto Courtesy of Glass Recycled

Cement based recycled glass countertops require a sealer that must be applied periodically to protect them from acidic substances like citric juices, red wine and vinegar that can etch the surface. They're also porous and sealing them helps protect against staining.

Resin based countertops provide a non-porous surface and don't require sealing to protect them from stains or solutions that might injure the surface. In that way they're similar to quartz countertops which are crushed quartz crystals held together in a resin-based matrix.

Mostly Glass Along With Some Other Ingredients

The ratio of glass to binder varies amongst the different products but it's always a majority of glass. Virtually every recycled glass countertop product is made up of three-fourths or more of glass with the rest being the binder.

Within the portion that's glass there's a percentage that's recycled glass. In other words, some products have 100% recycled glass (where all the glass in the product is from recycled sources) and other products have a mix of recycled product and new.

recycled glass countertopsPhoto Courtesy of Glass Recycled

The recycled glass comes from a couple of sources: post-consumer and pre-consumer waste streams.

Post-consumer glass is the material that's been through the consumer cycle and been discarded, like beer and wine bottles.

Pre-consumer glass comes from the manufacturing process before it gets into the consumer goods stream.

Although glass is a major constituent some recycled glass countertops include other materials like porcelain (from old toilets and sinks) and even seashells. In a twist on this theme DuPont's Zodiaq Terra Collection is a quartz-based countertop that includes a percentage of recycled glass.

How "Green" Are Recycled Glass Countertops?

When you see the term "recycled" associated with countertops you naturally think that they're friendly toward the environment. The question of how eco-friendly they are is dependent on your viewpoint however.

There's no doubt that these products use a lot of recycled glass (as a percentage of their makeup) and as a result, prevent a lot of material from ending up in a landfill. That's good and as such, they should be considered "green" to some degree.

But for the environmental sticklers out there it should be pointed out that the cement and resin binders have their faults. Resin, in most cases, is a petro-chemical product derived from a non-renewable resource unless it's formulated from plant-based sources. Cement-based products also have issues since cement is very energy intensive with regard to the fuel needed for the extraction of its raw material to the energy required to produce it.

To counteract these issues some makers of cement-based recycled glass countertops use fly ash and slag to help reinforce the cement. This has a side benefit of diverting these by-products of the coal and ore smelting industries from the waste stream.

recycled glass countertopsPhoto Courtesy of Glass Recycled

But on the flip side, fly ash can contain heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, lead and others. Although fly ash is a component of most cement-based products, like concrete for example, it's suitability as a building product has its detractors despite it's prevalent use.

Recycled glass counters that are not a composite (meaning they're NOT a combination of glass chips and a resin or cement binder) don't share some of the issues mentioned above.

The bottom line on recycled glass countertops as a green option is that their eco-benefit is mixed, particularly where chip-based products are concerned. It's certainly a good option given that it diverts material from landfills. There are tradeoffs however and just because it's a "recycled" countertop doesn't mean every aspect, from material creation through manufacturing to ultimate disposal, is as earth-friendly as it could be.

Understand the specifics about the product you're interested in so you can determine for yourself if it meets your own green standards.

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Pros And Cons

Naturally any product has its attributes as well as its drawbacks and recycled glass counters are no different. The following information lays out the highs and lows.

The Pros....

  • Good Eco-Friendly Attributes
    Purists could argue that some of the ingredients in these countertops aren't so green. But you can't dispute the fact that reusing tons of refuse glass that would otherwise end up in a landfill isn't a good thing.
  • Offers A Unique Style Option

    recycled glass countertopsPhoto Courtesy of Glass Recycled

    The terrazzo or chip-based products offer a distinctive look due to the fact that they combine not only different colored glass chips but that they also have some depth and translucence.

    It's one of those materials that you find yourself staring into because of the visual interest those glass chips provide. You can be sure this is one kind of surface that won't be in every kitchen in your neighborhood.

  • Ability to Customize
    Some recycled glass countertop manufacturers offer the ability to customize the product by allowing you to choose the makeup of the glass chips that are used. You can specify the colors, mix them up and combine them with coordinating matrix binder colors to have them complement your kitchen or bath decor.


...and The Cons...

  • Can Be Expensive
    In general, recycled glass countertops can be expensive, costing more than some stone countertops. If you really like the look, it's worth pricing out for your particular project. But don't be too surprised if the cost per square foot exceeds some other popular surfacing materials.
  • Cementitious Products Require Sealing

    recycled glass countertopsPhoto Courtesy of Glass Recycled

    Sealing your countertop isn't the end of the world but it is an added maintenance requirement. More importantly, it means that the surface is more prone to damage and/or staining than a resin-based product which doesn't require protection.

  • Potential For Glass Aggregate To Chip Out
    Some users of terrazzo countertops report that pieces of the glass can get knocked out, particularly on edges. That's also a factor to consider when choosing an edge treatment. Some manufacturers recommend against using edge styles that result in thinner cross-sections (like an Ogee) because it raises the risk of glass chips getting knocked loose.

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Who Makes Them & How To Get Them

There are a variety of manufacturers of recycled glass countertops with varied regional availability. Many of these products are sold by their brand names so to shed some light on what's available, the table below lays out the various products. They're listed in alphabetical order broken out by the type of matrix binder they use (for terrazzo products).

Cementitious-Based


Brand Website

Curava

Eco-Terr

Fuez

Gilasi

IceStone

Rinato

Squak Mountain Stone

Vetrazzo

www.curava.com

www.coveringsetc.com/ecoterrhome.aspx

www.fuez.com

www.gilasi.com

www.icestone.biz

www.rinato.com

www.squakmountainstone.com

www.vetrazzo.com



Resin-Based


Brand Website

Eco

GlassSLAB by Glass Recycled

Trend Glass


Zodiaq Terra

www.ecobycosentino.com

www.glassrecycled.com/products/glassslab-recycled-glass-countertops/

www.granitetransformations.com/products/glass-countertops/

www2.dupont.com/Surfaces/en_US/products/
zodiaq/zodiaq_terra_collection.html



Pure Glass (Non Chip-Based)


Brand Website

Bio-Glass

UltraGlas

www.coveringsetc.com/bioglasshome.aspx

www.ultraglas.com


Some manufacturers of these countertops offer products directly from their facility. That means you'll have to order the slabs and then hire a local fabricator who's experienced with installing recycled glass, stone or quartz countertops. The cost of shipping is an added expense to the material and installation costs.

Other manufacturers work through a network of installers/fabricators that do both the sourcing and installation.

recycled glass countertopsPhoto Courtesy of Glass Recycled

Your location also factors into which products are easier to get since some products are more widely available than others. That doesn't mean you're out of luck if you don't have a particular brand in your city. You can still contact the manufacturer and possibly have them ship the product to you but there will be the associated shipping costs and the need to find a local fabricator/installer.

The best approach at sourcing recycled glass countertops is to browse the websites of the various brands and become familiar with what you like. Get some samples or better yet, try to see some actual countertops if they're available in a showroom near you. Narrow down your choices and check for local availability. If it's not available locally you can either switch to a similar product that is, or, work with a manufacturer that can ship product to you.

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Points To Consider Before You Choose

Before making any final decisions here are a few additional points to consider about recycled glass countertops.

  • Chip-Based (Terrazzo) Or Solid Glass?
    A lot of the products in this category are the terrazzo style but you're not limited to that look. There are solid glass countertops that are made from recycled glass too. In fact you don't have some of the issues like sealing or the potential for particulate break-out like you do with the matrix-type products.
  • You'll Need A Fabricator/Installer
    Remember that you'll need to find a fabricator that can work with this type of product and install them for you. Preferably they'll know how to handle seams (what materials to use, how to color them, etc.) and other factors associated with getting a quality installation. If you can't find a qualified fabricator, ask the manufacturer if they can recommend one in your local area.
  • Slab Size
    Be aware of the largest size slab that the manufacturer can provide. There can be differences among makers. Smaller slab sizes could mean more seams depending on the square footage your countertops cover.
  • Consider Other Countertops
    Whether it's the look you like or the environmental factor that lures you to these kinds of countertops rest assured that you do have other options. Both solid surface and quartz countertops can achieve a similar terrazzo look. Other types of composite and recycled countertops offer green options but in different materials.

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Here's More Related Info That Might Be Helpful...

Choosing Glass Countertops - Glass countertops are a bit different than the recycled glass counters. Check out how they're different and what's available in this unique choice for a countertop.

Composite And Recycled Countertops - Another "green" countertop option is one made from other kinds of recycled and reused materials. Discover what kinds of materials are available along with their pros and cons.

Choosing Kitchen Countertops - There's a myriad of countertop materials to choose from and this article tells you what they are and how to choose.



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