Counterops - recycled materials

OKMorehApril 28, 2014

A minor change in the layout of my kitchen is going to require new countertops, and I'm interested in using something made of recycled materials.

The big-box stores offer Eco by Cosentino. It's the same manufacturer as Silestone, and the same process except that it uses mostly recycled glass instead of quartz.

What other recycled-material counters are widely available? There seem to be more complaints about chipping of the Eco material than with other resin-based counters. However, this is kind of a backwater and some of the materials that I've read about may not be available here.

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Fori is not pleased

Stainless steel or copper. Better than just recycled (which it probably is), it's recyclable.

Some of the very cool products with glass have a reputation for staining--that's the ones where there's some concretey stuff holding them together. So get a sample and run the full torture test before you commit.

Another option that people like to skip is tile--there are many tiles with small to 100% recycled content. Fireclay is one manufacturer that is big on that, and they send free samples.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 3:43PM
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No personal experience. Paperstone.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 4:27PM
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Paperstone is what we've chosen, but it's not installed yet. I have some samples and it feels a bit like Corian.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:01PM
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There are really only a few types of recycled counters: Particles in resin or concrete, reclaimed (buy the counters from Craig's List or architectural salvage and rejigger them to fit, or other salvage that didn't used to be counters also cut to fit), and the materials that can be melted down and remanufactured like glass or metal. Slab glass counters, whether recycled or not, can be problematic for a high work zone. They can nick, chip, etc., and even shatter.

Bioglass is made by compressing recycled glass for years until it fuses and transforms. It's gorgeous, and tougher than ordinary slab glass, but very expensive, and considering the production process and shipping, the only environmentally sound part is that it's keeping that much stone from being taken from the earth and that much glass from potentially going into it.

Terrazzos, which many of the glass counters are, with concrete substrates, have all the downsides of concrete, primarily etching and chipping. The resin ones hold up better, if the name material is ground up fine enough (Quartz counters are stone dust with resin and very durable). I have sunflower seed husk board, husks in resin, on a non-work counter, and for my table. It does react to water and has a few chips and divots, but is holding up pretty well after four years considering how big, and delicate, the husks are.

There's a recycled marble that uses large chips of broken marble in resin. It has a totally smooth, polished surface, but you can see the depths of layering, which is pretty cool. It looks a bit like chipboard. :) Because it's stone, it might hold up better than some of the other larger bits slabs, but I don't know for sure. It still might have little bits that occasionally chip out.

Paperstone isn't meant for heavy wet areas. It shouldn't rehydrate and pop out if there's no coaster like my husks, but don't leave pools that can get to the paper part. :)

You can get any material you want anywhere you want it, if you're willing to pay for it. Having it shipped on a carrier that was coming to your town anyway isn't a significantly greater environmental issue than whatever it took to get what you can buy locally there.

If you want new but relatively low impact, go for tile. There are also quite a few kinds of tile which are made with recycled content ranging from stone to glass to scrap ceramic. Some have post consumer recycled content, and all have industrial waste.

The big question is why do you want recycled? If you're really trying to make not to impact the environment, go reused/repurposed with material that is already where you live. If you're trying to encourage manufacturers to use the materials that are already out there rather than digging up new, and you're fine with the resin part, then Eco might be a good choice for you, or one of the recycled stone or paperstone versions. If you just want it because it's cool, the sky's the limit. :)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 12:32AM
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I considered paperstone for my current kitchen. I got a sample and brought it home to torture it. Water was no issue at all. But scratches? Yikes. That's why I ruled it out, I could scratch it with my finger.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 1:29AM
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I've had Curava's recycled glass countertops for a year now with no chips, dings, or other problems. I love them! We bought at Lowe's.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:58AM
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I've had PaperStone in my kitchen for almost two years, and a review I wrote over a year ago is still true:

I like it very much, and would put it in my kitchen all over again. The color is so rich, and the surface feels incredibly smooth. But scratches are pretty obvious. My counters haven't yet achieved an overall patina, so the scratches might recede eventually. (The counters have been in only since July 2012.) And the one seam I have is also quite visible. That might be partly because of the inexperience of my installer.

I will add a few things... It's installed around my cleanup sink, and there's an integrated drain board, with no water issues. There are stains from where I've left the cast iron Dutch oven to dry overnight (rust or oil, not sure which). Note that the resin is made from cashews, not petroleum. Finally, some recycled paper countertops are not UV stable and so darken over time.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:01AM
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I'm glad to see so many reports of success with alternative countertop materials. The more options the better.

I just want to clarify, however, when I spoke of the drawbacks, those were the if something bad happens possibilities, not the first thing that would happen. My working counters are tile and hard green soapstone. Neither of them, by their nature, can be nicked, chipped without extreme violence or water damaged, though I suppose if the water sat for long enough on the grout, it might defeat the sealer and soak through to the mortar bed. I don't think it could get to the wood, however, since it would evaporate sooner, and given the assumption that no one was there for a month to dry it up.

The sunflower seed husk board, on the other extreme, can be damaged by standing water, and chipped, and probably easily nicked, though it wouldn't obtrude like it does in glass. Anything meant for kitchen counters, like Paperstone or glass terrazzo is going to have a much better success rate. It's just not impervious.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 12:40AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I have caesarstone chocolate truffle which is quartz but made with recycled glass and I have found that the glass can get dinged whereas the quartz does not.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:46AM
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Our counter is recycled glass in a resin base by

We also have recycled glass backsplash.

You can see them both on my kitchen reveal thread. Happy to answer any questions about our counters.

Here is a link that might be useful: Green Green Kitchen Reveal

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Thanks for all the replies and suggestions!

I should probably explain what I'm doing. My house is an early (1951) mid-century modern split-level. I am only the second owner; the original owners lived in it for 56 years.

The kitchen still has its original maple cabinets, with distinctive hinges and pulls. The cabinets are staying, even the one that has to be removed to allow installing a dishwasher. It's at the end of the run and the original end panel will be reattached to a wider cabinet base.

I would prefer a counter that includes recycled material because I think it's more responsible to use such. The most environmentally responsible thing would be to keep the existing ones and fill in with salvaged material, possibly reclaimed butcher block, only where the new unit will be.

I would do that if I liked the existing counters, but I don't, even though they're completely in period. They aren't the original ones, but they may be identical to the originals: post-formed white laminate with gold speckles. My neighborhood isn't ritzy by any standard, but I may need to sell the house within a few years and it is becoming hard even in this modest neighborhood to sell a house with laminate.

I am used to tiled counters because they're ubiquitous in California, where I used to live, but they're not at all popular here and would be a definite barrier to sale. I do have tile in mind for the backsplash, but it appears to me that Fireclay is made to order and almost fantastically expensive (for tile), although not as expensive as almost every other counter material I'm considering.

I'm losing enthusiasm for Eco by Cosentino after reading the CU article. Eco was dropped from the 2011 ratings after it split during testing.

Wouldn't you know that Chocolate Truffle was the Caesarstone color that I liked best even before I knew that it had recycled content?

I will check out Curava when I'm next at Lowe's.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 3:26PM
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Fori is not pleased

OOOOooooo pictures of your kitchen please!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 5:43PM
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