Eco Friendly Countertops: Are Paper Countertops A Good Eco-Friendly Choice?

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paper-countertops.JPG The answer is a solid YES!

Finding an eco-friendly countertop that also looks great is much easier than you might think.

There are a few different types of eco-friendly countertop materials on the market:

  • Terrazo – crushed stone and glass that is set in a cement or epoxy substrate and then buffed until smooth
  • Recycled Glass Tile
  • Re-purposed Stainless Steel
  • Recycled Plastic – made from a variety of materials such as yogurt containers, among others
  • Wood – if sourced locally from a FSC-certified source
  • Recycled Aluminum – from dismantled airplane wings
  • Paper Composite

It’s that last option — paper composite — that is the subject of this post.


Paper Countertops

I had a Richlite paper countertop sample placed in my hand the other day, and I decided that I had to find out more about Richlite and some other brands that are similar:

To be fair, I will be posting articles on those types mentioned above in the near future. Check back and I’ll have a link to each. For now, I want to concentrate on Richlite.


Richlite Paper Countertops

That little sample of Richlite in the photo above is rock solid. It definitely took me by surprise.

Incidentally, the sample shown above is from their Cascade line.

Richlite is not a new player in this arena. They were established in 1943 producing natural fiber composites for the aerospace industry (tooling), marine (fiberglass reinforcement), and industrial markets in the 1950’s for companies such as Boeing and Boston Whaler.

Over time, they have expanded their product line to include:

  • countertops
  • indoor wall cladding / wainscot
  • work surfaces
  • wall caps
  • stair treads
  • architectural features
  • skatepark surfaces
  • cutting boards


Reasons To Choose A Paper Countertop

(Speaking of Richlite specifically here.)

  • It’s green!
  • It’s Greenguard-certified for indoor use in residential, school and institutional environments.
  • It’s heat resistant up to 350° F.
  • There are several solid colors from which to choose.
  • It’s much harder than wood and is scratch-resistant. (But it can be scratched, gouged, scorched or stained like many other countertops, if you choose to abuse it.)
  • It’s food safe. It does not support the colonization of bacteria.
  • There is no traceable formaldehyde.
  • Whatever color(s) it is on the outside is what is on the inside. It’s a true solid surface.
  • It can be sanded for repair with a Scotch Brite pad.
  • There is no off-gassing! The compounds inside are chemically cross-linked during the manufacturing process and locked within the material. This creates a homogenous material.
  • Richlite paper countertops contribute to LEED points.
  • 99% of the VOC’s are incinerated. The heat from the incineration is used to dry the material. They call that the WE™ (waste-to-energy) manufacturing process. It equates to a much lower carbon footprint.
  • There is no hazardous waste during the entire manufacturing process.
  • It’s super-strong and can be cantilevered further than laminate and other countertop materials. It can also span further distances.
  • You can choose to have different edge treatments.
  • It’s sustainable.

It’s not just ordinary paper that they are using to produce Richlite countertops. The paper is purchased from FSC-certified sources and/or derived from post-consumer recycled content.

The 2 types of countertops that are derived from post-consumer content are designated by their product name. Their r50 line consists of  50% old corrugated cardboard (consumer waste) and r100 recycled paper (post-consumer waste). Both are FSC-certified:

Richlite specializes in the manufacture of natural fiber composites. Richlite is primarily paper treated with phenolic resin and baked to create a solid sheet. During the production cycle the layers of paper are gradually crossed-linked with each other to create solid, durable sheets. Once the curing process is complete, the structure of the product is permanent and cannot be altered. The final product is exceptionally strong and still maintains a warm and natural look. —Richlite

Wondering what phenolic resin is?

This is best answered by quoting Richlite’s technical writers:

Phenolic resin is a thermosetting bonding compound produced by polymerizing C6H5OH and HCHO. During a controlled thermosetting process, the molecules in the resin crosslink with one another to form an inert, solid and highly stable material composite. –Richlite

Regarding paper countertops, you want to get technical? Check out this informative Richlite FAQ.

All in all, a paper countertop is one of the greenest choices you can make today.

The added benefits of durability, cleanliness, color choices, sustainability, and versatility should put it right at — or near — the top of the list for environmentally-conscious consumers.


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