An example of the latter would be Formica’s e-Series solid surface countertop. It’s a conventional-looking material with an unusual recycling twist. The manufacturer deliberately sought to incorporate a material that isn’t usually recycled because it’s costly and difficult, said Pam Kineer, a Formica marketing executive. Formica chose expended polystyrene plastic (EPS), the material used to make Styrofoam cups and packing peanuts, because it doesn’t decompose in landfills.
Formica’s e-Series contains 5 percent recycled EPS, which works out to about 1,000 Styrofoam cups in every 12-foot-by-30-inch sheet of material. The e-Series also contains 10 percent scrap waste from the production of Formica’s conventional Solid Surfacing countertops. The recycled content is not visible in the finished countertop. Introduced last January, the e-Series has six light-toned earth colors, each with distinctive white flecks and larger translucent brown chunks. The e-Series installed cost is about $50 a square foot.
Dupont’s Terra Collection was launched last June. As with Formica’s e-Series, Terra looks like a conventional solid surface material but is made with recycled content, in this case scrap waste from Dupont’s Corian production. Terra was developed as part of Dupont’s company-wide drive to reduce its annual waste from 81 million tons to zero, a feat it accomplished in three years.
The Terra collection has 33 earth colors that are organized into three groups, containing 20 percent, 13 percent and 6 percent recycled content. The higher the recycled content, the lighter the colors. The five in the 20 percent recycled content group include only white, tan and gray; the recycled content appears as tiny flecks and larger chunks. The most saturated colors, and in my estimation the most appealing choices, have the least amount of recycled content. Terra’s installed cost ranges from $50 to $100 per square foot.
Cosentino’s environmentally ambitious Eco line resembles its far better known Silestone quartz countertop because both are made with the same manufacturing process, but the content and sourcing are different. Silestone is made with virgin material, but 75 percent of an Eco countertop is made with recycled content, including porcelain (toilets, sinks and dinnerware), crystalized ash from smoke stacks and industrial furnaces, and glass (bottles and mirrors). Eco’s virgin content includes quartz to provide strength and a polyester binder that contains corn oil.
Eco countertops are offered in 10 earth colors. The most popular choice of designers has been “Riverbed,” a rusty-gray with tiny flecks of black ash that create the illusion of movement and larger glass chunks that add depth. The overall effect resembles a drop of agitated amoeba-filled swamp water under a microscope. Eco’s installed cost is about $80 per square foot.