Sustainable Material: Recycled Glass Kitchen + Vanity Countertops
Clients often ask about alternatives to the ubiquitous granite countertop material and one option is to use a recycled glass product. Typically made of recycled glass and cement, glass slab countertops are attractive, available in many colorways and have a much fresher look than granite in my opinion. They are also a sustainable material. A common misconception is to believe that granite and other stones are ‘green’ because they are natural materials but almost 60% of all granite is shipped internationally at a tremendous energy cost and much of it imported from developing nations where it is quarried under unacceptable worker and environmental protection standards. And when one considers the depletion of this natural resource, it hardly seems ‘green’.
Several companies manufacture a recycled glass product, with the most well-known being Icestone in Brooklyn, NY, Vetrazzo in Richmond, California and EnviroGLAS in Plano, Texas. All contribute toward LEED credits and Ice Stone has gone a step further by achieving the Cradle to Cradle certification which means that an independent third-party firm has evaluated IceStone surfaces for its human health, environmental health, lifecycle attributes, social responsibility, renewable energy and water stewardship characteristics against stringent criteria and has certified it as a Gold level ecologically intelligent product.
The properties of each recycled glass product vary slightly depending on manufacturer but, in general, the surfaces are comparable in strength, scratch resistance, thermal resistance, durability, and care and maintenance to granite. They can be used in many applications in addition to countertops including backsplashes, bathroom vanities, table tops, bar tops, interior walls, and commercial flooring applications, shower and bathtub surrounds and kitchen sinks. They can be mounted vertically or horizontally.
A downside of recycled glass is that it may be cost prohibitive and more expensive than granite. Prices vary according to color, manufacturer, project scope and location.
Below are some detail and installation photos taken from the manufacturers websites. Have you had an experience using recycled glass or another sustainable coutertop material? Please share!