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Keep an eye out for those discarded bottles you sent to the recycling center a few weeks ago. They just might show up in your home again in places you hadn't expected.
Every year, millions of glass bottles and containers end up in landfills. Add to that discarded residential and commercial plate glass, auto and airplane windshield glass, traffic lights, stained glass, mirrored glass and factory scraps, and the stockpile of variegated colored glass is enormous.
Fortunately, some resourceful manufacturers have developed economically viable ways to divert some of that glass from landfills to make eco-friendly countertops, tabletops and flooring which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase walking on glass.
Why Recycled Glass?
The first question many homeowners ask when deciding whether to use recycled glass materials is, why? Actually, there are several good reasons, not the least of which is the green angle.
Manufacturers of recycled-glass materials point to their use of 100 percent post-use recycled glass, which is abundant. The glass is crushed to varying sizes, depending on the application, and mixed with a binder, such as epoxy resin, cement or ceramic clay.
Pigment may be added to the composite material, which is then formed and cured if making tiles or countertop slabs, or poured to make terrazzo flooring. Polishing, buffing and optional sealing bring out the colors of the embedded glass, resulting in a unique, attractive material.
Because of the use of glass and the production process, recycled-glass materials are strong, durable and nonporous, so dirt, stains and contaminants won't penetrate the surface. The material is easy to clean with mild, neutral cleaners. And because the material is economical to produce, costs are competitive with other countertop and flooring alternatives.
Here are some recycled-glass options.
Used primarily for countertops, although they also can be used for tables, tub decks, flooring and even walls, Vetrazzo recycled-glass slabs, from Counter Production, are composed of 85 percent recycled glass and 15 percent cement with other materials. Epoxy-free and resin-free, the slabs are resistant to chips and cracks, and can handle heat from pots and pans.
The surfaces are sealed with a penetrating siloxane sealant and waxed with marble polish (quarterly reapplications are recommended) to maintain stain resistance. They are available in more than 30 designs, in whole or half slabs, with standard lengths of 9 feet and widths of 5 or 9 feet. Standard thickness is 1.25 inches. Fabricators can cut and form them into smaller slabs or tiles. For more information: http://www.counterproduction.com or 510-843-6916.
Made from 75 percent recycled glass of various colors and sizes mixed into pigmented concrete, IceStone surfaces are suitable for kitchen countertops, tabletops, vanities, backsplashes and walls. The material is manufactured as 52-by-96-inch molded slabs that have been vibrated and heat-cured to improve strength and reduce porosity.
The durable surfaces are heat resistant like stone, not as porous as marble and have no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), according to the manufacturer. They are available in 26 colors, or with a custom pigment added to the base mix. For more information: http://www.icestone.biz or 718-624-4900.
One of the companies at the forefront of the recycled-glass flooring industry is Texas-based American Terrazzo, which about three years ago devised and patented an economically viable way to use 100 percent post-use recycled glass and epoxy resin to create a pourable terrazzo flooring material called EnviroGlas.
Similar to traditional terrazzo flooring, which is a blend of marble or granite chips with mortar or concrete, EnviroGlas is a mixture of recycled glass chips and epoxy resin. The blend is poured to a 3/8-inch thickness onto a concrete slab or wood subfloor. Typically, the pour must cure for at least 24 hours. The surface is then ground down and polished in a three-step process, revealing the glass chips to full luster.
Because glass is nonporous, no sealer is required. And since the flooring is seamless, there is no place for mildew or mold to grow, making it ideal for both residential and commercial use. Costs run about $30 per square foot for installations under 1,500 square feet.
The company also makes countertop slabs and terrazzo planks. The planks measure 6 inches wide and 36 inches long, enabling homeowners to achieve a custom wood floor look with a green nonwood product. They run about $25 a square foot, installed. For more information: www.
enviroglasproducts.com or 972-272-8084.
Using a technology licensed from Columbia University in New York, which pioneered a way to mix waste glass in concrete without a chemical reaction that can cause cracking, Wausau's glass terrazzo tiles are 33 percent recycled glass by weight. When the material is initially machine-pressed, the glass is encapsulated in the concrete and is not visible, the company explains. A grinding process exposes the glass, and polishing smoothes the exposed glass.
The tiles, which can be installed on concrete or on a typical prepared wood subfloor, are laid in thinset ceramic tile mortar. Joints typically are grouted with the same mortar used for laying ceramic tile.
The cost ranges from about $3.50 to $6 per foot, depending on the size of the tile, which, the manufacturer notes, is competitive in price with many of the better-grade ceramic tiles. The tiles are available in a variety of glass colors, including blue, green, brown, red and clear. Sizes range from 12 square inches to 24 square inches, and thicknesses from 7/16 to 7/8 of an inch.