Natural granite makes attractive, high-end countertops, but recycled glass countertops rival -- and in some cases exceed -- granite in terms of style, color choices, maintenance and sustainability. Recycled glass countertops are made from crushed recycled glass that is embedded in cement or a resin, such as acrylic. Sources of recycled glass include traffic lights, car windshields, and beer or wine bottles. Although the durability of recycled glass countertops and granite is similar, the quality of recycled glass countertops can vary depending on a manufacturer's materials and methods. The cost for granite and recycled glass countertops is similar, and both require professional installation for best results.
Variety and Style
Granite comes in at least 20 shades, but it cannot match the almost endless color and style variations of recycled glass countertops. Recycled glass is crushed into different chip sizes and embedded in resin or cement; the glass can also be finely ground to make countertops that resemble solid surfacing. During processing, manufacturers can also add pigments or other recycled material to create one-of-a-kind styles. Unlike granite, countertops made with crushed glass appear translucent and have depth.
Chip and Scratch Resistance
Granite is an extremely hard material and is resistant to scratching. It is relatively chip-resistant, but dropping a heavy object onto a granite counter may produce a chip. Recycled glass countertops also are strong and generally not susceptible to scratches or chips. However, some brands of recycled glass countertops may crack with high heat or from a heavy weight. Compare the brands and types of recycled glass countertops before you choose one.
Recycled glass counters require less maintenance than granite countertops. You need to seal granite, because it is a porous material that will absorb foods and liquids, causing stains. Improperly sealed granite can also become contaminated with bacteria. To prevent staining and bacterial contamination, seal granite counters annually. Countertops of glass chips embedded in cement may need to be sealed, because concrete is not stain-resistant. Most recycled glass countertops, however, are not porous, and easy to clean with just soap and water.
Overall, recycled glass countertops are more sustainable than granite. Recycled glass countertops are made up of as much as 80 percent recycled glass, which keeps the material out of landfills. Recycled glass counters themselves are also recyclable. However, not all recycled glass countertops are completely eco-friendly. Cement, one of the binders of recycled glass counters, is produced by an energy-intensive process that uses mostly fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum. Many resin binders are also derived from petro-chemicals, which are non-renewable resources. Although granite is a natural stone, it is quarried using heavy equipment that uses petroleum products and requires a high amount of energy and water for processing. Although granite is abundant in the United States, much of the granite for counters and construction is imported from other countries, which requires high energy use.
- Countertop Guides: Pros and Cons of Granite Kitchen Countertops
- Home Style Choices: Recycled Glass Countertops Lots of Choices for a Greener Countertop
- Consumer Reports: Are Recycled Glass Countertops All They're Cracked Up to Be?
- U.S. Energy Information Administration: The Cement Industry is the Most Energy Intensive of All Industries
- Natural Stone Council: Granite
About the Author
Based in Connecticut, Marie-Luise Blue writes a local gardening column and has been published in "Organic Gardening" and "Back Home." Blue has a Ph.D. in biological sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and wrote scientific articles for almost 20 years before starting to write gardening articles in 2004.
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