When we talk about countertop materials, paper is hardly among the things that come to mind. In recent years, however, countertops made from recycled paper composites have fast become one of the most popular countertop materials alongside classic choices such as durable synthetics and natural stone.
If you’re looking for a cheap, environmentally friendly new countertop material that can handle almost anything you can throw at it in the kitchen, then recycled paper might be exactly what you need. Here’s what you need to know to determine if it’s the right fit for your kitchen.
Origin of Recycled Paper Countertops
Recycled paper countertops are made from a mix of post-consumer recycled waste paper and other fibers. This mix is compressed into a dense slab that feels similar to soapstone. It is then is held together by formaldehyde-free thermoset plastic resin. Some manufacturers use nonpetroleum-based resin to further lower the material’s environmental impact.
Recycled paper countertops are typically available in thicknesses ranging from 1/4 inch to 2 inches and come with a non-shiny flat matte finish. They are available in a range of colors, although the palette is usually limited only to medium and dark hues. Countertops that come in lighter colors are available, although these are made from a recycled paper and bamboo composite.
The fact that it’s made from recycled materials is one of the main selling points of recycled paper countertops. Some manufacturers even go as far as to use only paper approved by the Forest Stewardship council.
Other manufacturers also go to great lengths to get GreenGuard certifications which signify that their products are beneficial to indoor air quality.
As mentioned before, recycled paper countertops that use nonpetroleum-based resin make them an even more attractive option for environmentally conscious homeowners. It definitely gets a top grade for being one of the greenest materials around.
One thing that should be remembered is that the resin makes the material non-recyclable. It can still, however, be recut and retooled for future use.
Forget your preconceptions about paper materials – recycled paper countertops are pretty tough and durable. Their dense and non-porous construction make them highly resistant to stains and nicks and are therefore relatively easier to maintain.
Since paper is far lighter than natural stone materials, recycled paper countertops can come in longer spans without requiring additional support like natural stone slabs.
This material is pretty cheap, too, and should set you back only around $40 to $80 per square foot.
Although recycled paper countertops do have a certain level of heat resistance, they can only handle temperatures of up to 350 degrees. Anything higher and you risk damaging the material.
Most recycled paper countertops also require a food-grade sealant like wax or mineral oil to keep them looking good as new. They are also sensitive to abrasive cleaners; cleanups should only be done with a damp cloth and no soap.
Finally – and this is just a matter of taste, mind you – recycled paper countertops can develop a seasoned patina, especially in areas that see high use. If you want something that stays pristine for decades, then you might want to find some other material. If you want a countertop that has its own character, then the patina shouldn’t be a problem.