How to Choose Between Recycled Glass and Granite Countertops

Annie Sisk
Written by Annie Sisk
Updated December 27, 2021
A kitchen with an island and granite countertops
Photo: Wollwerth Imagery / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Recycled glass countertops add a unique style to your kitchen.

  • Granite countertops are durable and attractive.

  • Both options are available at a wide range of prices.

  • Recycled glass counters are easy to clean with plain water and soap.

  • Granite surfaces are porous, which can lead to staining in some cases.

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Both recycled glass and granite are popular choices for kitchen countertops, but each delivers a unique look and set of features. Depending on your preferences, you might prefer the eco-friendliness and artistic flair of recycled glass or the elegant beauty and sturdiness of granite. Here’s how to choose the right material for your kitchen. 

Recycled Glass Countertop Pros and Cons ​

Manufacturers source glass for recycled glass countertops from curbside recycling and building demo sites. The glass shards are then crushed and reassembled into a colorful pattern or mosaic within a cement or resin binding agent. More rarely, a manufacturer may melt down all the glass from various sources to form a single slab. 

During the assembly process, workers may add pigmentation to create a wide range of looks and styles. The result can be a vibrant riot of color, adding some spice to your cooking space. And because it uses materials already in existence, most homeowners consider it the more eco-friendly option.

Pros of Recycled Glass Countertops

Sustainability

Instead of making new material to build countertops, recycled glass manufacturers scour existing sources that would otherwise wind up in landfills or elsewhere as garbage or demolition debris. However, some countertops may use binding agents that undo some of those environmental gains. 

Maintenance

Recycled glass countertops are easy to clean and maintain. Because it’s not porous, it can be cleaned regularly with soap and water. If the countertop uses a cement-based binder, it must be regularly sealed just like granite countertops. 

Appearance and Customization

Recycled glass countertops are generally made of crushed glass with a binding agent or a single piece of glass. The former process can produce a unique, colorful, and translucent appearance you can’t replicate with other materials, including granite. Some manufacturing companies allow you to choose specific bits of glass or specify certain colors, giving you even more control over the appearance of your countertops. 

Cons of Recycled Glass Countertops

Heat- and Scratch-Resistance

Some glass countertops can crack or chip, either over time or from extreme heat. Placing a hot pan down on the counter surface without a trivet or dropping a heavy pan can result in chips or cracks that might be difficult to repair. According to the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies, glass registers around 6.5 out of 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, which helps track minerals by their relative hardness. This score makes glass slightly more susceptible to chipping and breakage.

Cost

The cost for recycled glass countertops averages around $2,700. Depending on your requested customizations, type of glass, and overall kitchen dimensions, it may cost $65 to $140 per square foot

Granite Pros and Cons​

Granite is mined from quarries in slabs and chunks that are ultimately reduced to slabs using specialized tools. The slabs are then polished on one side to create a smooth surface. Edges may also be polished and shaped using computerized or smaller hand-held routers. 

The manufacturer will apply a high-quality sealing agent (or sometimes may leave this to the customer). After the sealant dries, the surface is buffed to a sheen, revealing the natural beauty of the underlying stone. 

Pros of Granite Countertops

Close-up of a granite countertop and a kitchen sink
Photo: StudioDin / Adobe Stock

Heat- and Scratch-Resistance

Granite is one of the most heat-resistant countertop materials you can choose for your countertops. While it’s best to use trivets on any counter surface, it’s possible to safely place a hot pan directly from the oven onto a granite countertop without any risk of damage. 

Granite scores about a 7 out of 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and is slightly more resistant to chips and scratches than recycled glass. When chips and cracks do occur, it’s best to call a local granite countertop repair pro for fixes. Usually, they’re small enough to fill with epoxy and buffed out, so repair work isn’t necessarily extensive or costly. 

Maintenance and Repair

Granite is generally considered to be a fairly low-maintenance countertop material. Sealant for your granite countertop should last for 10 or more years. Best of all, most homeowners can take a DIY approach and do the job themselves when it’s time to replenish the sealant. It might not be as easy cleaning granite countertops as recycled glass, but it’s not the toughest job around, either. 

Cost

Installing countertops range from $2,00 to $4,500, with the exact costs depending on the kitchen size and granite quality you choose. Whole slabs run anywhere from $15 to $140 per square foot, although you can save money by selecting prefabricated pieces wherever possible, at a typical cost of $10 to $35 per square foot.

Cons of Granite Countertops

Stain-Resistance

Overall, granite is relatively stain-resistant, though somewhat less so than recycled glass surfaces. Granite is porous, unlike glass, and needs a sealant to increase its resistance to stains. The porousness may allow some liquids to evaporate before staining the surface. 

Sustainability

Not all granite comes from domestic quarries. When they’re sourced from overseas sites, this dramatically increases the energy required for transport back to the U.S. for sale and installation.

Close-up of a glass vs. granite countertop

Recycled Glass vs. Granite

Which material is best for your kitchen: recycled glass or granite? It depends to a large extent on your personal preferences and needs. Let’s look at how each option fares in a head-to-head battle. 

Sustainability​

Because of their status as upcycled products from building demolition and other recycling sources, recycled glass countertops are generally more sustainable than other materials, including granite. But overseas production can eliminate sustainability gains, as can the use of cement binding agents, so make sure you know where the glass in your countertops is coming from. 

On the other hand, granite doesn’t exclusively come from nearby quarries. Some countertops are sourced from other nations, raising the energy requirements for transport and adding to granite’s production footprint. 

More sustainable: Recycled glass

Appearance​

Recycled glass presents a unique aesthetic appealing to many homeowners who want to stand out and express their individuality. Your countertop may produce a three-dimensional look and feel, depending on the recycling process the manufacturer uses. Customization and coloring agents during processing can also create a stylish appearance. 

Granite countertops also provide a different yet equally striking look and feel and come in various natural colors. That aesthetic appeal explains why granite counters have been popular for several years now. 

More visually appealing: Tie (both are attractive in different ways)

Heat-Resistance

Both materials can handle the kitchen heat, but it’s hard to find a more heat-resistant countertop material than granite, which can take pots and pans straight from cooking surfaces (although, again, trivets are always recommended). Recycled glass surfaces are heat-resistant under normal conditions, but they might crack or chip under an extremely hot pan or dish.

More heat-resistant: Granite 

Scratch- and Stain-Resistance

Recycled glass countertops are nonporous, giving spilled foods and liquids nowhere to go. Cleanup is simple: A paper towel or sponge with soapy water is usually all you’ll need. By contrast, porous granite surfaces seem to suck up liquid spills. Untreated acidic substances such as citrus juice or vinegar can result in hard-to-remove etching, resulting in discoloration and altered texture. 

More scratch- and stain-resistant: Recycled glass

Price​

The cost for recycled glass ranges from $65 to $140 per square foot. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $140 per square foot for granite. This means you could wind up spending about the same or even more for recycled glass instead of granite, depending on your specific preferences.

More affordable: Granite 

The Winner: Recycled Glass or Granite?

Overall, recycled glass may give you more bang for your budget, especially if you’re already drawn to the artistic colors you can get in a glass countertop as opposed to the more natural stone look of granite. Whichever material you choose, make sure you hire a seasoned local kitchen countertop installer to install yours. 

Winner: Recycle glass

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