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There are several criteria a countertop material must meet to be considered sustainable. The material should be 100% recycled and recyclable, contain no Volatile Organic Compounds, be solid and nonporous, stain and scratch resistant, and capable of being attached mechanically rather than with adhesives.
The most common material for countertops has always been wood. Sustainable countertop wood should be salvaged, reclaimed or Forest Steward Council Certified. Wood should not be used in wet areas (where water continuously gets spilled) and should be laminated with natural mineral oil to prevent drying. Also, it is important to make certain that there is no formaldehyde in the laminate, as it poses a potential health threat to occupants in the home.
Terrazo is another recycled countertop material; made up of a combination of stone and glass chips. This highly durable composite is made of a high level of recycled content and has a forty-year life span. Recycled stainless steel, mechanically fastened, can offer a strong and long lasting material that works great as a sustainable kitchen countertop.
Recycled plastics can also offer an excellent variety of sustainable countertop materials. Two examples include solid surfacing and green grade laminates. These two lines of materials are available in a variety of styles at a reasonable price. Although plastics are long lasting, they are not scratch resistant and are capable of warping.