[Sustainable products] Innovative technologies are helping manufacturers to turn waste into raw material, says Sandy Patience
Visitors to this year’s Ecobuild might have wondered at the richness and variety of products made with recycled materials. But how many people will have been aware that the invention and ingenuity on show was significantly enhanced by environmental legislation?
The most important push came from the 1996 Landfill Tax. Before that, people had thrown away material as if holes in the landscape were bottomless. Taxation was an incentive away from mindless disposal and industry began to see ‘raw material’ rather than ‘waste’.
Another government tool has been the Aggregates Levy that limits landscape degradation from quarrying. One of the main beneficiaries of this legislative one-two has been the engineered surfaces market, which includes flooring and worktops as well as wall panelling and screens.
Effectively cut off from its source of cheap natural aggregates, the industry launched dozens of research programmes to explore the output of the emerging recycling sector. The fruits of that research now reaching the market represent a fascinating and often stunning re-interpretation of traditional materials together with the evolution of new ones.
Conventional engineered stone is typically a composite of crushed stone bound together by epoxy or polyester resin. The sustainable version replaces the stone with materials drawn from a palette of recycled aggregates. The waste is either pre-consumer, such as secondary aggregates including china clay, sand and slate waste, or the more familiar post-consumer, which includes the glass and plastic thrown away by you and me.
Resin binders too have been developed to include recycled plastic and corn oil as part of a drive to reduce VOCs and a dependence on crude oil. More radical still is the use of glass that has been sintered to provide bonding through crystallisation so as to remove the need for independent binders.
R&D departments continue to churn out new materials, but brilliant though they may be, they still have to past muster from critical specifiers.
- Sandy Patience is an architect and editor of www.greenspec.co.uk
ECO is the product of a technology developed in Spain. The manufacturing process combines pre- and post-consumer waste with waste stone and a unique binder containing corn oil. The mixture is melted, spread on a conveyor belt and compressed. After heat treatment it is calibrated and polished. ECO has been awarded a number of certificates including Cradle-to-Cradle.
Product name: ECO by Cosentino
Application(s): Work surfaces, interior cladding and flooring
Recycled content: Porcelain, glass, mirrors and vitrified ash
Per cent recycled: 75per cent post-industrial and post-consumer recycled raw materials
Non-recycled content: Stone waste
Binder: Part eco-resin, which contains 22per cent corn oil
Hardness: Between 5 and 7 on the Mohs scale
Dimensions: The surfaces are available in jumbo slabs of 327 x 159cm as well as standard tile sizes - 30 x 30cm 45 x 45cm and 60 x 60cm. The slabs are available in 1.2cm, 2cm and 3cm thickness to respond to varying market needs.
Finish: Polished (providing the surface with a brilliant shine) and Leather (matt finish)
Colour: Available in 10 colours
Country of manufacture: Spain
The material is a 100 per cent recycled glass material, which has the combined characteristics of glass and natural stone. Because of the unique technique of heating and cooling glass waste to enable crystallization, the need for a resin binder is removed. The glass ceramic is not toughened and as such can be cut by waterjet or rotary saw after forming.
Company: Indupart Glaskeramik
Product name: Decoran
Application(s): Facade rain screen, internal wall linings, lit feature walls and counter tops
Recycled content: Float and trade glass
Per cent recycled: 100
Binder: None used, sintered glass bonded via crystallization
Hardness: Between 5 and 6 on the Mohs scale
Dimensions: 20-23mm thick at 2700mm x 1200mm
Finish: Textured or polished
Colour: White and light green as standard. Others by quantity.
Country of manufacture: Germany
UK supplier: The Greenhouse Effect
EIGHT INCH LTD
Each panel is bespoke. Glass is selected and mixed with tinted resin and then cast into solid panels. Surfaces are ground away and polished to reveal fragments of embedded glass that reflect light and give sparkle and depth to the surface.
Company: Eight Inch Ltd
Product name: Resilica
Application(s): Worktops for kitchens and bathrooms. Counter tops for tables in restaurants and point-of sales desks for retail environments
Recycled content: Manufacturing, production and domestic waste glass.
Per cent recycled: 100per cent of the aggregate is recycled.
Non-recycled content: 15per cent binder
Binder: VOC-free epoxy resin
Dimensions: Maximum dimensions are: length 2900 mm; width 1350 mm. 20mm or 30mm thicknesses are standard, though other thicknesses can be achieved. All panels are made to order.
Finish: Polished or matt
Colour: Since Resilica is cast to order, colouration can be highly customised. To date over 500 ‘recipes’ have been created which involve selecting glass colour and resin pigmentation.
Country of manufacture: UK
Using a pioneering technique which combines end-of-life PET from recycled plastic bottles (polyethylene terephthalate) with fine mineral aggregate, Echotect has created a new material with comparable aesthetic and performance characteristics to current options across the flat surface market. The product is a 100 per cent recyclable material, ideal for floor and wall tiles, countertops, internal boards and external cladding applications.
Company: Echotect BV
Product name: Echotect
Application(s): Floor and wall tiles, counter tops, internal wall boards, external cladding
Recycled content: rPET (and secondary aggregate)
Per cent recycled: Up to 100 per cent (with use of secondary aggregate)
Non-recycled content: Dependent on mineral (if not secondary aggregate)
Hardness: 3-7 Mohs scale dependent on mineral
Dimensions: Material can be produced in thicknesses of 2mm-30mm, widths of up to 2m wide and length of up to 3m.
Colour: white, cream, grey, black
Country of manufacture: Switzerland
Domus Ecotech is a high technology textured porcelain tile range made with over 40 per cent recycled raw material consisting of pre-consumer waste from the tile industry. Available in four organic colours, natural and bush-hammered non-slip finishes, and tiles sizes up to 1200mm. It has a Bespoke BRE Green Guide A-rating.
Product name: Ecotech
Application(s): Floor and wall tiles; internal and external applications
Recycled content: Porcelain clay - pre, production and post production material
Per cent recycled: Over 40 per cent (certified), the darker the colour, the more recycled material.
Non-recycled content: Porcelain clay
Dimensions: 197 x 397mm; 397 x 397mm; 397 x 797mm; 597 x 597mm; 597 x 1197 mm.
Finish: Natural and anti-slip. Bush-hammered.
Colour: 4 organic colours
Country of manufacture: Italy
GLASSeco make worktops using what is largely locally collected waste material. Each panel is custom-made and finished in either a matt finish to resemble concrete or highly polished. Colours are available that vary from clear to coloured glass and texture can be added using glass dust, mirrored-glass or even sea shells.
Product name: UrbnRok
Application(s): Worktops, desks and tables, screens
Recycled content: Post-consumer waste glass and plastic;.
Per cent recycled: Around 100per cent of the aggregate is recycled, but can vary according to other added waste aggregates.
Non-recycled content: Resin binder; can include other aggregates such as stone offcuts, sea shells
Binder: Non-solvent epoxy resin.
Dimensions: Thickness upwards of 12mm
Finish: Matt or polished.
Colour: Varied according to source of aggregate
Country of manufacture: UK