Recycled countertops are like the students in your high school class everyone envied: they are blessed with stunning good looks and amazing social skills, too. Recycled surfaces offer the benefits of being socially conscious without sacrificing style.
Whether your client wants to be adventurous with chunky glass and swirled metallics, or simply add a personal touch to the kitchen, bath, or laundry room, recycled materials offer an array of options. What’s more, the surfaces keep waste out of landfills and are not imported or mined from the earth like a lot of natural stone.
“People not only have a good-looking product that is cost competitive, but they feel good about their purchase,” says Matt Belcher, owner of Belcher Homes in Kirkwood, Mo.
There are a variety of materials to choose from — from recycled paper to reused plastic. And they come with an abundance of looks. For example, Belcher installs a recycled paper product, PaperStone. It is made from either 100 percent post-consumer recycled cardboard or 100 percent post-consumer recycled office paper. It also contains a petroleum-free resin of natural ingredients, such as cashew nutshell liquid.
Jeffrey Dinkle, president of Eco Custom Homes in Atlanta, says PaperStone works well for clients who want a modern look and those who can enjoy a surface that is out of the ordinary. “PaperStone is a living product, similar to a concrete countertop,” he says. “It patinas, and it is more of an interesting, fun product.”
Likewise, recycled glass countertops can offer clients something unique. Builder Barry Katz of Barry Katz Homebuilding in Westport, Conn., uses IceStone surfaces, which are made with 100 percent recycled glass in a cement matrix. “I think it’s very attractive,” he explains. “It’s not a very traditional-looking countertop, and they have a lot of different colors and patterns.” Countertops by EnviroGlas and Vetrazzo offer similar looks.
Indeed, aesthetics are often the key selling point for eco-friendly countertops. Ryan Waxman, owner of VitraStone, manufactures sinks and surfaces from a blend of ceramic cement, recycled glass, and fly ash. He says that a few years ago, his customers didn’t even care about VitraStone’s green qualities. “They liked the alternative finish to the granite,” he says.
Ame Quiriconi, president of Tiger Mountain Innovations, saw that clients seeking an “organic look and feel” chose her product. The company offers a countertop material with the upscale appeal of stone, but made of recycled paper, recycled glass, fly ash, and cement.
Tiger’s Squak Mountain Stone line compares to honed limestone, slate, or soapstone, with a rough, straight-from-the-quarry look. The surface is marked by air bubbles and subtle color variations. Tiger also offers Trinity, a reflective countertop surface made from 75 percent recycled glass, for a shiny, polished surface.
Other products have an even more modern edge. Made of post-industrial scrap aluminum and resins, Alkemi countertops by Renewed Materials come with a honed finish, or a textured finish that flaunts individual metallic shards. “They are very design-driven and contemporary,” says owner Demir Hamami.
Countertops that use recycled plastic offer a useful purpose for a common material. According to EPA statistics, 30.7 million tons of plastic entered the municipal solid waste stream in 2007. 3form’s 100 Percent countertop line, for example, is made entirely of recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE). It features a white or black background with flecks of color, or solid neutrals with subtle metallic accents. Also made of recycled HDPE, Yemm & Hart’s Origins surfaces sport solid colors or a blend of hues.
Whether in the laundry room, the bath, or the kitchen, recycled countertops play both to a homeowner’s aesthetic and conscience. “I think they are appealing to everyone,” Belcher says, “They’re pretty, and they have an added value, too.”
Vetrazzo. The maker has added new colors to its line of countertops made of 85 percent recycled glass. The introductions include Floating Blue, a formerly limited-edition surface with chunks of blue glass, and Cool Titanium with Patina, a light and dark gray neutral mix. 510-234-5550. www.vetrazzo.com.