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Recycled Paper Countertops: Pros, Cons, and Cost

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Apr 28, 2020

For homeowners who are thinking about renovating their kitchen, a new countertop is undoubtedly one of the best ways to add some color and life. Older laminate or Formica countertops were trendy back in the 1980s and 1990s. While relatively inexpensive and impermeable, these older types of countertops tend to show their age over time. 

Upgrading to a granite, marble, or quartz countertop might be high on your list of priorities. These types of countertops, however, are on the higher price end and could leave you with a sizeable bill once the renovations are finished. Recycled paper countertops are a comparatively new product that offers aesthetic and sustainability advantages to any home. Below, Rise provides a complete guide on the pros, cons, and cost of installing a recycled paper countertop in your kitchen.

paper composite countertop

Back in elementary school or perhaps at summer camp, one of your arts and crafts activities might have consisted of wetting old newspapers, shredding them in a blender, and forming small pages of recycled paper for a journal or diary. Recycled paper countertops are unquestionably more sophisticated than that popular kid's craft idea. However, the manufacturing process follows similar principles.

What Are Recycled Paper Countertops?

Recycled paper countertops are made from a mixture of post-consumer recycled paper. The mixture is then mixed with natural pigments and different types of binding resins. Unlike conventional plywood and other building products, the adhesives used with these types of countertops are entirely free of formaldehyde. The recycled paper and resin are baked in industrial ovens at high temperatures to make the countertops resistant to heat, water, and other elements. The combination of densely packed recycled paper and a thermoset plastic resin creates a smooth, durable countertop that is moderately resistant to cuts, scratches, burns, and stains.

According to research done by the University of Southern Indiana, Americans collectively use upwards of 85 million tons of paper each year. This amount averages out to almost 700 pounds per person each year. Between junk mail, print newspapers, old books, and homework, each household in the country throws away at least 13,000 pieces of paper every year. The Global Forest Resource Assessment estimates that up to 160,000 individual trees are cut down every day worldwide. Many of these trees are destined for the paper industry.

Recycling

A responsible and environmentally-conscious lifestyle requires all of us to reduce the total demand for raw resources, including the paper we use for our daily activities. Opting for paperless bank statements and reading your news online are simple strategies for reducing overall paper demand. However, the fact remains that millions of tons of paper will continue to be sent to landfills around the country. Because paper is a source of organic waste (like potato peels and banana skins), it releases methane gas when mixed with inorganic waste in municipal landfills.

The Energy and Environmental Study Institute calculates that landfill gas (LFG) accounts for almost one-fifth of all US methane emissions. In 2011, over 103 million metric tons of carbon equivalent were released into the atmosphere by landfills across the country. Methane gas is also a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

In an initial five-year period, it has been shown that methane gas can trap up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Recycled paper countertops offer a functional, durable, and aesthetically pleasing alternative for your kitchen or bathroom. They can also help reduce the carbon footprint of your home and help to combat global climate change.

How Much Do Recycled Paper Countertops Cost?

Generally speaking, recycled paper countertops are more expensive than cheaper alternatives such as laminate, porcelain, and ceramic countertops and less costly than marble or granite. Homeowners should be prepared to pay somewhere between $45 and $70 per square foot for recycled paper countertops. For comparison's sake, the most elegant marble countertops can cost up to $190 per square foot. In contrast, a simpler travertine countertop might cost as low as $11 per square foot. For a six-foot by three-foot island in your kitchen, a recycled paper countertop should cost you somewhere between $800 and $1,200.

Are Recycled Paper Countertops Durable?

The thermoset plastic resins combined with the densely packed, composite, post-consumer paper waste make this type of countertop extremely durable. Despite its name, the countertop feels like a soft stone. These products are generally considered to be harder and longer-lasting than wood, yet much lighter than stone. The resins make the recycled paper extremely resistant to heat up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that homeowners will not have to worry about accidental burns when placing a hot pot on the counter. The product, when properly maintained, is almost entirely non-porous, similar to stainless steel and quartz. The smooth, hard surface allows it to be naturally anti-bacterial and easy to clean with simple and healthy kitchen cleaners. They are also surprisingly resistant to staining and chipping.

Do Recycled Paper Countertops Require Maintenance?

Recycled paper countertops do require regular maintenance to prolong their lifespan. Like many types of stone countertops, these products need to be sealed to avoid stains and other damage. Most companies that manufacture and market paper countertops also offer relatively inexpensive sealers that can be purchased and applied yearly. In the case of Paperstone, one of the leading manufacturers, a 12-oz bottle of finish will properly seal up to 150 square feet of countertop. Apply the sealant with a cloth, let it sit for 20 minutes, and then wipe clean. When you notice that the countertop is losing its sheen or luster, reapplying the sealant can help to ensure that it maintains its non-porous nature.

Paperstone Refinishing
Refinishing PaperStone Countertop. Photo Credit: PaperStone

For older or mistreated paper countertops, homeowners can also "refurbish" the product by using an orbital buffer with a Scotch Brite™ pad. This technique will buff the entire area and get rid of any surface scratches or stains. When finished buffing, make sure to reseal with the proper sealant.

How Long Do Recycled Paper Countertops Last?

When properly maintained, recycled paper countertops can easily last for 25 years or more. Many of the manufacturers offer warranties for their products ranging between 15 and 20 years. These countertop options can even be used in outdoor settings. However, extended UV exposure will most likely lead to the fading of the colors. Also, because these countertops can be buffed and resealed, refurbishing can be a DIY project, thus saving on expensive contracting and labor fees.

Counter Stain

What Are the Pros of Recycled Paper Countertops?

  • These countertop options do not off-gas any dangerous, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home.
  • They are also remarkably resistant to bacterial stains, heat burns, and scratches.
  • Due to the absence of formaldehyde resins, recycled paper countertops are entirely food-safe and do not emit any radon gas into the home.
  • Purchasing a recycled paper countertop offers tangible environmental benefits as well. The Paper Recycling Coalition states that "for every ton of recovered paper that is converted into new recycled paperboard for packaging and other end uses, 3.6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions are eliminated."
  • The dark color tones offer an earthy feel to the kitchen.
  • Due to their composition, these countertops are naturally warm to the touch, not cold like granite, marble, or cement options.
  • Recycled paper countertops can be refinished at home without having to hire specialized contractors.
  • Because of their recycled nature, opting for this type of countertop can reduce your home's overall embodied energy footprint.
KlipTech EcoTop
EcoTop Counter. Photo Credit: KlipTech

What Are the Cons of Recycled Paper Countertops?

  • Recycled paper countertops do require regular maintenance, mostly resealing to avoid stains and scratches.
  • Most manufacturers only offer medium to darker hues for their countertops. However, one company has recently released a line of recycled paper countertops, called EcoTop, that incorporates bamboo for lighter color toners, including "snow white."
  • Recycled paper countertops can be prone to stains and scratches when they are not adequately sealed.
  • This countertop option is more expensive than other products such as travertine and Formica.

Who Makes Recycled Paper Countertops? 

Several different companies manufacture recycled paper countertops today. Below, we briefly review a few of the leading manufacturers on the market.

Paperstone Counter
PaperStone Counter. Photo Credit: PaperStone

PaperStone: 

PaperStone manufactures its recycled paper countertops in the state of Washington. They rely on 100 percent made-in-the-US raw materials, and almost all of their products are certified recycled by the Rainforest Alliance to the Forest.

Richlight
Richlight Countertop. Photo Credit: Richlite

Richlite: 

Richlite makes eco-friendly recycled paper countertops used in kitchens, bathrooms, home offices, and even garage workshops. The product can be applied over existing countertops for a simple, DIY retrofit for your kitchen. The countertops are heat resistant up to 350°F and naturally antimicrobial.

KlipTech EcoTop
EcoTop Countertop. Photo Credit: KlipTech

KlipTech EcoTop: 

KlipTech makes two main types of recycled paper countertops. As we mentioned above, their EcoTop surfaces come in lighter color options. The resin used in the product is 100 percent water-based. It includes a mixed fiber blend of post-consumer based paper and sustainably harvested bamboo.

RecycleTop KlipTech
RecycleTop Counter. Photo Credit: KlipTech

For homeowners wanting pure recycled paper countertops, the company also manufactures their line of RecycleTop. This product is made from 100 percent post-consumer paper waste. It includes an innovative bio-resin made from corn and cashews.

Bottom Line

Adding recyclable materials to your home is a great option for homeowners who cares about their environmental footprint and the overall sustainability of their homes. Recycled paper countertops are functional, durable, and beautiful. As we discussed above, these types of countertops can help reduce the methane emissions that occur when paper products go to landfills. It's another way for everyday homeowners to help the transition to a more ecological future!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-06-19T19:12:09+0000