Recycled glass is among the most fanciful, prevalent and useful raw material currently grabbing the attention of manufacturing companies across the planet. What started as wine bottles, jars and myriad glass containers has become a growth industry that is producing products that are so beautiful, they often look better than pricey originals. If you're handy and would like to make counter ops that will stop people in their tracks while saving you a bundle of cash, this could be your chance to shine.
Research countertops made of recycled materials to gather ideas before you start your project. In particular, check out California-based BottleStone (see Resources). They make ceramic stone countertops of recycled glass. Another company you will want to emulate is Vetrazzo. This company recycled around 1,600 tons of waste glass in 2008 and has won design awards for innovative countertops made of as many as 1,000 bottles in a single panel! Both websites are listed below.
Find crushed, recycled glass at recycling centres, industrial refuse sites and junkyards. Look for these types of raw materials: old windows, broken dinnerware and stemware, car windshields, stained-glass shards, laboratory glass, decommissioned traffic light glass and the remnants of building demolitions. Purchase a countertop mould or make a frame for one to suit your allotted space.
Calculate the amount of glass you will need to make your countertop(s). On average, six wine bottles provide enough raw material for one square foot of fabricated countertop. If you prefer percentages, manufacturers working with recycled glass recommend blending 85% crushed glass with 15% binder material. Various combinations are being tried every day, so make a sample square to see what ratio of glass to binder suits your taste.
Carefully break and crush the glass you have gathered to get an aesthetically pleasing mix of shards. Use green, brown or blue beer or wine bottles for a one-color countertop or combine clear and coloured shards for a multicoloured look.
Choose a binding material. Popular choices are resins and cement bases, though petroleum-based raw materials like resin remove a bit of the sustainability mantle from the end product. In truth, any material that can be softened and mixed with glass shards, then hardened in a mould, will do the job. Your home improvement shopkeeper can make many other base material recommendations.
Pour the contents of your mix into the counter-shaped mould(s) you have purchased or into the homemade frame you have built. Allow the materials to harden before stripping away the framing or mould. This is where you can congratulate yourself for having created attractive, solid working surfaces that didn't include generating environmentally-harmful emissions that usually result from the manufacturing process!
Enjoy your handiwork. Recycled glass countertops have proven to be as strong as 1.5" thick brick or 2.5" thick concrete, so your finished project will be unique, beautiful and cheap. They'll also be nice and sturdy for the kitchen tasks that await you!
Make a recycled glass countertop that resembles terrazzo marble by pairing post consumer glass chips and recycled concrete. Talk about environmentally friendly! You may also wish to try making recycled glass/ceramic tiles rather than moulding an entire countertop. Mix 30% ceramic composite with 70% recycled glass. Pour the slip into tile moulds, bake, cool and mount the tiles just as you would any other tile.
As with all raw materials, broken glass has the potential to cause injuries, so protect your hands and eyes when you work with it. Safety glasses and the right work gloves will keep you safe, and keep a first-aid kit in your work area for extra protection.