New generations of particleboard are now available that are manufactured with no added urea formaldehyde. Water-based contact adhesives now on the market also emit far lower levels of VOCs than older products.
Any capable plastic laminate countertop fabricator can use the kinds of materials I have described here, and the result will be a darned good green countertop. And you can have it in hundreds of colors and patterns, not just the color green. The cost will be somewhat higher than for a run-of-the-mill plastic laminate top, but still far less than other options such as granite, quartz and solid surface.
One of America’s oldest and largest manufacturers of mass-produced plastic laminate countertops, VT Industries, now offers just such a product nationally. VT Industries has been in business for over 50 years, and has manufacturing plants in Oregon, California, Texas, Iowa, Indiana, Georgia and Quebec, Canada. Its green countertop option is EQcountertops, which uses biodegradable, water-based contact adhesives, and laminates from major manufacturers such as Formica, Wilsonart and Nevamar that are GREENGUARD certified.
The particleboard used is Roseberg SkyBlend, which utilizes 100% pre-consumer recycled wood fiber content, and no added urea-formaldehyde resins. The company certifies that formaldehyde emissions from the SkyBlend product do not exceed outdoor ambient air levels. The product also meets the highest levels of performance for particleboard products. In order to ensure that this particular particleboard is used, it is tinted light blue for identification purposes.
Though the cost of EQcountertop blanks is somewhat higher than the equivalent product using conventional materials, the labor cost for assembly and installation should be identical. The bottom line is a very appealing price, and environmental benefits for a broad swath of consumers.
In my opinion, a plastic laminate countertop is a fine product at a reasonable price point that performs well in moderate use when well cared for. Such countertops are not a good choice in demanding situations where they are subject to abuse, such as commercial food service environments, or rental housing. Repair options are limited if they are damaged. However, I’ve seen many plastic laminate countertops that were decades old, and still in good condition.
For many consumers, a reasonably low price trumps maximum durability. The benefit of legitimate environmental credentials just adds luster to the resurgence of this old standby in today’s tough countertop marketplace.