By Linzy Novotny
The sleek, black countertops found in laboratories and high school chemistry labs have a new use.
Washington based company PanelTech Products Inc. has incorporated new materials into the manufacturing of countertops for an earth-friendly product called PaperStone. This recycled paper product is already making its way into homes nationwide.
Setting PaperStone apart from competitors is their use of post-consumer recycled paper and sustainable phenolic resins that are water based, Jesse Arter, salesman at Natural Interiors, said. Traditionally, oil-based synthetic resins are used.
Arter worked for PaperStone when he lived in Washington and has sold the product since 2004. “There is a paper mill literally right next to where PaperStone is manufactured,” Arter said. “They get the recycled paper they use in the product there.”
PaperStone is made by first soaking paper in the resin, Arter said. The thickness of the countertop is determined by how many pieces of paper are stacked. Looking at an unfinished edge of PaperStone, individual sheets of paper can be seen and accounted for. Next, the resin and paper mixture is sent through an 85-foot-long press that heats and fuses the materials together, Arter said.
The finished product is 55 percent paper and 45 percent resin. The material is heat resistant up to 350 degrees and will not stain due to its nonporous surface, Arter said. The material will show wear and micro scratches with time. Also, PaperStone will patina like wood, creating sheen in areas of high use.
“These countertops aren’t for everybody,” Arter said. “Some people don’t want normal wear to show on their countertops, so these countertops are not for them.”
Many people who choose PaperStone are drawn to the look of the countertops. They are available in 12 solid colors. One drawback, Arter said, is that only dark colors can be made due to the dye that is mixed with the resin. Shades of brown, as well as red, gray, blue and black are available. The color choice “leather” is reminiscent of a brown paper bag.
Adding to look is the incredible versatility of PaperStone. The product is used structurally as rain screens and partitions. “There are two Starbucks in Seattle that have PaperStone rain screens on the outside of their buildings,” Arter said.
Paneltech is also using PaperStone for cutting boards. The nonporous surface does not harbor bacteria, Arter said, and the material is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation. They retail for $10-30 depending on size.
The government actually uses PaperStone in military issue Humvees as armor, Arter said. Seats are encased with PaperStone, which protects the driver and passengers from detonated land mines.
PaperStone competitor Richlite recently incorporated recycled paper into their material, Arter said, but not all of their countertops contain recycled paper. Richlite’s average cost is $10-15 per square foot and PaperStone costs an average $40 per square foot.
Natural Interiors, located in the Denver-Metro area, sells other eco-friendly countertops made of metal, concrete and recycled glass, Arter said. One company makes countertops out of repurposed concrete from the old Stapleton Airport. Quartz is their biggest seller with a cost of $60 per square foot.
PaperStone dealers can be found on their website. Each countertop comes with a 15 year warranty. The countertops are ordered from Washington and take one to two weeks for delivery.
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