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Recycled glass is thing of beauty

Post Time:Mar 13,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:403

Old windshields turn into funky kitchen tiles and much more

The windshield you glare through while tackling the daily commuter battlefield could one day be a cheery backsplash in the kitchen or swanky insets around the soaking tub.

Old car windshields, along with castoff pop bottles and glass jars, are being snatched up by the truckload for the burgeoning market in recycled glass tiles. And the results can be breathtaking: everything from exquisite mosaics to iridescent, multicoloured rectangles and big, bold slabs that trumpet, "I'm a design risk-taker and proud of it."

Enthusiasm for recycled glass tiles is rooted less in environmental concerns than in the products' sheer beauty, says Elaine Nikiforuk, owner of World Mosaic in Ottawa. Her store carries several lines of glass, porcelain and other green tiles, including the gorgeous Oceanside Glasstile line.

If the recycled aspect is mostly a bonus for customers, it's a key part of business for Oceanside Glasstile and like-minded manufacturers. Depending on colour, Oceanside tiles contain up to 87% recycled material. That can range from trimmings from the company's own production lines to glass (nearly a million kilograms a year) from curbside recycling programs. The old glass is melted and blended with silica sand to produce the tiles.

The companies vigorously market their sustainable components and processes including energy-efficient manufacturing.

DuPont, for example, has recently launched the Zodiaq Terra Collection of tiles containing at least 50% recycled glass. The products can contribute to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the environmental stamp of approval from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Glass tiles stretch back to Byzantine days. Especially big in the 1960s, when Italy was about the only producer of then-fashionable one-square-inchers, glass tiles fell out of favour before exploding again in popularity several years ago, with manufacturers around the world offering a dizzying array of textures, colours and, now, environmental pluses. Glass tiles work wonderfully in kitchens, shower stalls, around fireplaces, in spas and pools, and as accents. Small mosaic tiles are perfect for curves, while rectangular ones can spike a surface with visual allure.

"Glass has come a long way," says Penny Southam, whose Ottawa-based interior design firm, Southam Design, has seen a surge in tile appeal. "Now people are interested in contemporary, clean lines, and glass really lends itself well to that."

One reason for the uptick in glass tiles, she says, is that over the past decade kitchens -- the one place where busy families can still nourish not just their bodies but their family relationships -- have become the most important room in the house. Open concept and loft designs, where kitchens are readily visible from many parts of the home, demand that the room be both beautiful and functional.

"I'm a big fan of glass," says Southam. "With task lighting under the cabinetry, a funky glass backsplash adds sparkle because it doesn't absorb the light."

Southam's daring use of recycled glass panels helped her win honours at last fall's Housing Design Awards from the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association for a tempered glass backsplash, a glass bridge spanning a kitchen island and dazzling glass panels in the ceiling. They're the work of Montreal glass artist Detlef Gotzens and can be seen at

While some prefer glass tile for contemporary design, Nikiforuk says the rustic look of hand cut products, including Oceanside Glasstile's, let them shine in any setting. Glass goes especially well with slate and marble, she says. "There's such a contrast in colour and texture, it makes for a really timeless look."

Recycled glass tiles are as tough as porcelain or ceramic, but like any tile, must be installed properly.

Just don't expect to get off cheap. Though glass tiles from China are flooding the market at below $10 a square foot, you can pay up to $100 a square foot for recycled ones. And because less expensive recycled glass lines, including Terra Green Ceramics Inc. products ($20 a square foot) look like ceramic, people often opt for ceramic tiles at a third of the cost. As a result, recycled glass tiles are often used as accent pieces.

That higher cost is one reason many tile stores don't carry recycled tiles or don't know if their glass tiles contain recycled materials.

For more information on glass tiles, visit

Source: Canwest News ServiceAuthor: shangyi

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