Richlite, in Tacoma, WA, is a countertop material made primarily of paper derived from certified managed forests in North America. The binder is phenolic resin. The manufacturer incorporates a limited percentage of recycled paper into the product, but believes that new paper offers superior quality and performance.
PaperStone is a countertop material made by KlipTech Bio Composites in Hoquiam, WA. There are two categories of PaperStone: The original is made with 50% post-consumer recycled paper, while PaperStone Certified is made with 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The company says it uses “non-petroleum based resins”.
Rapidly renewable resources are the holy grail of green building materials. This term refers to useful plant fiber materials that can be re-grown in less than 10 years, as opposed to 50 years or so for red oak, for example. The category includes products made of cork, sorghum, wheat straw, sunflower hulls and bamboo. Of these materials, bamboo has achieved the greatest success in conventional western construction.
Totally Bamboo is a company that now offers laminated bamboo countertop sheets in thicknesses of 1-1/2" and 2" and lengths up to 8 feet. The material is 16% harder than maple, and is laminated in crossbanded layers using food grade, formaldehyde-free adhesives.
Alkemi is a countertop material made by Renewed Materials LLC of Cabin John, MD. It is composed of 60% recycled post-industrial scrap aluminum with either clear or opaque polymeric resin binders. The scrap aluminum consists of distinctively curled shavings, and the product comes in two finishes. With the textured finish, the aluminum shavings are fully encapsulated within the sheet, but visible through clear resin. The honed finish, on the other hand, is machined so that exposed aluminum is visible on the surface.
Squak Mountain Stone is a unique countertop product manufactured in Woodinville, WA by Tiger Mountain Innovations. The product is a composite that includes mixed paper, crushed glass, granite dust, fly ash and Portland cement. Fly ash is an industrial byproduct produced in coal-fired electric generating plants. It is a fine powder that can be mixed with cement in ratios approaching 50%, reducing the amount of cement needed to make a strong product. The environmental benefit of using fly ash as an additive is that cement is an energy-intensive product to manufacture, whereas fly ash is an inevitable byproduct of energy generation from coal.
Origins is a 100% recycled polyethylene countertop material manufactured by Yemm & Hart in Marquand, MO. The company makes Origins out of colorful recycled post-consumer detergent bottles. Because the recycled bottles are sorted by color before being shredded into flakes, the manufacturer can accurately formulate and produce a variety of standard colors and patterns.
It can be expected that some of these companies will thrive, while perhaps others may fade away. However, it seems sure that the demand for countertop materials perceived as “green” is bound to grow for a long time to come. Accordingly, it would be wise for countertop fabricators to give consideration to adding some of these products to their mix of offerings, and to develop policies regarding their own commitment to environmental responsibility.
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