Good-looking Glass: Use Recycled Glass for Kitchen and Bath Tile

Rediscovery of an ancient art helps take care of today’s trash.


| July/August 2002



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Penny Livingston-Stark and James Stark installed this iridescent glass tile from Oceanside at the threshold to their home in Northern California.

Photo by Paul Bousquet

Of the 40 million tons of glass thrown away each year, only 40 percent is recycled. Twenty-four millions tons are lost to landfills.

Today’s homeowners are not the first to be dazzled by the lustrous look of glass tiles. The Romans and Egyptians began using glass to adorn their walls and floors around 200 a.d. One thousand years later, the Venetians developed glass-making processes that helped create the glass tile mosaics that can still be found throughout Italy. In the late nineteenth century, Louis C. Tiffany further refined the process; his richly glowing iridescent creations were used in many of the period’s most magnificent homes.

Homeowners’ reasons for rediscovering this ancient building material are not at all surprising. Glass tile has many aesthetic as well as practical advantages over other wall- and floor-covering options. Most apparent is its appearance. Glass tile offers a jewel-like translucency and illusion of depth that cannot be obtained with stone, ceramic tile, or solid-surface materials. Compared with the cavelike feel of granite or marble, glass-tiled baths evoke a feeling more reminiscent of a placid pond or a secluded cove.

Despite their delicate appearance, glass tiles are about as tough a surface as you can get. Glass is naturally stain-proof—spills can usually be removed with a damp sponge. Unlike most clay-bodied tiles, glass tiles are completely impervious to water, which makes them ideal for areas where they might have to withstand repeated freeze-thaw cycles, such as a garden ponds or swimming pools.

There are high-end, primarily European manufacturers, such as Bisazza of Italy, that make opulent glass tiles from new raw materials. Here in the States, things have taken a more environmentally friendly twist. Big manufacturers and small glass shops are using beer bottles, windshields, and post-consumer glass as the raw materials for their tile masterpieces.

Recycled glass renaissance

The glass tile industry is quite small in the United States. Glass tile production accounts for less than 1 percent of tile production, and in most cases small shops lead the movement. When Oceanside Glasstile of Carlsbad, California, was founded in 1992, for example, the company produced fifty square feet of tile per day; today the facility produces that same amount of tile in minutes. Oceanside’s tiles are made from 85 percent recycled glass. Recently, the company won a $1.4 million business loan from the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the state’s primary recycling agency. Oceanside’s increased production will allow it to use 3,000 tons of recycled glass in five years.





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