Selecting a countertop that looks great, is durable, and is good for the environment is no easy task. Thankfully, manufacturers are introducing new products all the time to address the growing demand for green materials. Here is our roundup of options for homeowners hoping to craft their countertops from recycled materials:
• Glass: Terrazzo is 50-95 percent recycled glass, which is mixed with porcelain or concrete and then buffed smooth. These countertops look similar to natural stone and are equally durable. The material is available in a wide range of colors, can last for several decades, doesn't need to be sealed, and is nonporous and heat resistant. On the downside, the material is typically as expensive as granite and harder to find.
• Plastic: Combining milk jugs, detergent bottles, yogurt cups, and other plastic rescued from the landfill, recycled plastic countertops are available in a wide array of colors and patterns. The affordable material is long lasting and moisture resistant, but it can burn and scratch easily. The aesthetic will appeal to homeowners with a more modern style.
• Paper: By compressing postconsumer paper waste into a solid block and then hardening it with resin, paper countertops have a warm, natural look similar to solid-surface countertops. It is durable, resists nicks and chips, handles heat, and is easy to keep clean. It needs to be re-sealed once or twice a year with mineral oil to prevent stains.
• Wood: Salvaged from old barns and other demolished structures, reclaimed wood makes a beautiful and rustic countertop. Wood can easily burn, split, and stain so it must be re-sealed frequently. If you don't mind the aged look, however, the surface can be used as a cutting board and the nicks and discoloration will only add to the timeless appeal. Reclaimed wood is about half the price of granite.
• Stainless steel: Made of 65 to 100 percent recycled content, stainless steel is a durable and low-maintenance option that can give your kitchen a sleek, modern look. Although the material resists heat and stains, it scratches easily and shows fingerprints (minimize the effect by choosing a brushed finish). Stainless-steel countertops can be quite expensive, on par with granite.