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Remodeling with Recycled Glass

March 31 2010

According to the experts at Enviroglas, over 40 billion glass bottles are created every year, and over 75% end up in landfills.

That’s why clever recycling companies like Gilasi and Vetrazzo are creating product lines that provide eco-friendly alternatives to wood flooring, porcelain or stainless steel sinks, granite countertops, ceramic tile backsplashes, marble fireplace surrounds, and much more. 

Recycled glass building products are made of 75% to 85% post-consumer glass like soda or wine bottles, or post-industrial waste, such as glass from demolished buildings. The glass selection is mixed with cement, resins, epoxy or other tinted binding agents and poured into slabs, tiles or planks.

To give you an idea of how much waste can be reused, a five foot by nine foot panel by Vetrazzo can recycle up to 1000 glass bottles, according to The Choice Ecologist.

Where do they get their beautiful glass? Some glass is as common as beer bottles, but the rich amber-toned shards make gorgeous countertops. Vetrazzo employs bits of vivid blue Skyy Vodka bottles in some of its patterns.

Many of the companies that use recycled glass in their products have connections with local recycling networks that allow them to get the same colors of glass consistently, and they can create new patterns and colors with broken mirrors, stemware, automotive glass and other sources.

Most recycled glass products require the same fabrication, installation and maintenance as granite, according to IceStone. It washes clean with ordinary household cleansers, and retains its colors without fading in the sun, if there are no petroleum products in the mix.

The prices are comparable to granite as well, and so are the downsides. Some brands’ products need to be resealed every one or two years, and some recycled glass can scratch, so watch it when slicing onions or moving the piano.

Whether you’re choosing a countertop, backsplash, shower/tub surround or a floor, you have five decisions to make:

The manufacturer – each brand has different patterns and color choices, and some can offer custom glass, resin and finishes.

The fabricator/finisher – unless your fabricator is used to working with recycled glass, you’ll have to find a fabricator who’s experienced with granite installations

Resin color – Like grout, the resins, concrete and epoxy binding agents have color. Think about the way the colored glass will look suspended in a neutral desert, cozy moss, icey blue, or spicy red.

Glass color(s) – Glass colors are infinite. They can be soothingly neutral, like clear drinking glass bits in a stone-colored resin, or they can be exciting, like glittering jewels in a treasure chest.  If you have trouble choosing, you can email most manufacturers for a sample, or visit your nearest kitchen, bath or flooring showroom.

Finishes – Finishes can be matte, glossy, opaque or transparent. Don’t forget the numerous edges, as well, including bullnose, ogee, bevel and quarter-round, to name a few. 

In addition to their uniquely colorful “green beauty,” recycled glass countertops are easily incorporated into most design themes, including modern minimalism, mid-century retro, and traditional. If you’re seeking a durable, easy care product for your kitchen or bath, consider recycled glass.