Anyone connected to the construction industry has been hit hard by the economy in the past few years. And now, unless a company is part of the green revolution, the construction industry is going to rebound without it. Vetrazzo recycled glass and concrete countertops are a green product—that’s what led me to select one for my recent kitchen remodel (a simple 2-3 week project that ended up taking more than 2 months after I broke a water pipe, but that’s another story…). The company’s manufacturing process and unique supply chain show that it’s a company with a different approach.
Vetrazzo, the name of both the company and the product, was invented in 1996 in Berkeley, California, by a glass scientist working on his PhD, who had a passion for the environment. He had the idea of adding recycled glass to a concrete-like material to create a new type of building supply. Demand for the product grew quickly from small, handmade batches for the local building community to an installation at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida.
In 2006, armed with a new management team and some venture capital, Vetrazzo opened its doors in a brand-new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Richmond, California.
To manufacture the countertops, Vetrazzo combines recycled glass with cement, additives and pigments, pours the mixture into a flat tray and with its patented technology, vibrates the tray to spread glass evenly throughout the cement. The slab is then baked, hand-polished and examined by eye for any flaws that need mending before it’s ready for sale.
All of the glass used in Vetrazzo is recycled, and it makes up about 85% of the total material. Most of the glass comes from curbside recycling programs. Other glass comes from windows, dinnerware, stemware, windshields, stained glass, laboratory glass, reclaimed glass from building demolition, traffic lights and other unusual sources. Every Vetrazzo surface has its own history. We track that history, and after you purchase and register Vetrazzo, we provide a Certificate of Transformation that tells you where the glass in your Vetrazzo came from.
Some color choices are offered all the time because the materials come from a readily available supply. Other colors, like Firehouse Red and Traffic-Light Red, are limited editions only available when a collection of the appropriate glass can be acquired—anything from a manufacturing defect to a demolition project could provide it. One reason for the demise of Traffic-Light Red, for example, is that the source traffic lights are now made of plastic instead of glass.
While I find the company’s manufacturing batch process and unique supply chain cool, what makes Vetrazzo interesting to me is the company’s internal drive for sustainability. They practice what they preach. They are reutilizing an old Ford plant that uses existing daylight, has a ‘negative-pressure dust booth’ to minimize air pollution, and has a system to recycle water. In the company’s blog, Message in a Bottle, you can read about Vetrazzo’s victory garden, as well as its 4-Legged Waste Diversion Program (aka – Mama Goat).
Vetrazzo’s green process and philosophy has the company well-poised for the future. I recommend visiting its website to see samples of all the different stones and read about the colorful glass that’s in each one.