How eco are natural quartz worktops?

How eco are natural quartz worktops?

The biggest brands, which sell very well in the UK and the US, are Silestone and now Dekton. Both are by global player Cosentino, which asserts that it's a very eco friendly business

By Hari Alexander
Worktops in Tundra Dekton XGloss

Finding that perfect worktop is not easy because they all have their drawbacks. But Silestone and Dekton claim to be well on the road to perfection if perfection means stain resistance, great colours and longevity. Pictured above: worktops in shiny Tundra Dekton XGloss.

Silestone and Dekton are pretty pricey. The Marble Store has a very rough estimate to help you out if you're thinking about worktops, based on an L-shaped kitchen needing 2 x 3-metre length worktops. Note, the price includes cut-outs for an under-mounted sink, hob and tap, templating and delivery charges.
Silestone Aluminio Nube 20mm= £2,031.92 or 30mm= £2,378.46
Dekton Kelya 20mm only= £3,262.49
Silestone Sensa Colonial White 20mm= £1865.34 or 30mm= £2,128.86

 

Natural quartz and stone have to be quarried. Environmental organisations such as Friends of the Earth say quarrying should be done only when absolutely necessary; and many eco campaigners point out there are more sustainable materials for worktops, notably wood/reclaimed wood, but also glass, compressed paper product Richlite and recycled glass producs such as the UK's Resilica. As such they argue deep quarrying for quartz and stone isn't necessary.

But Silestone has become hugely popular and Dekton is also growing in popularity, and many consumers feel their longevity and stain resistance make them good products.  

Well, Silestone, which is made from 90 per cent natural quartz, and Dekton, which is a new compacted quartz/stone/glass material, are both made by the global privately-owned company Cosentino, which is headquartered in Almeria in the south east Spain. It's a company that prides itself on its care for the environment and we spoke to a Vice President in the Communications department, Santiago Alfonso, to gain insight into its thinking.

 
Silestone in Ariel Nebula Alpha
Blanco Orion from the Nebula Alpha collection of Silestone
Phoenix colourway from Silestone Nebula Alpha range
Core materials for Cosentino products are stone and natural quartz, which are abundant in the earth's crust and found all over the world. But these materials do have to be quarried, and quarrying causes environmental degradation. So how does a company that says environmental protection is at the heart of its business reconcile with the inherent risks to the environment posed by large scale and sustained quarrying?
 
Santiago Alfonso says the company is one of Spain's most eco-friendly businesses, preparing each year a clear Environmental Strategic Plan for the group to follow: 'Our growth has always been based on meeting our guidelines for environmental respect and risk management,' he says. 'Natural quartz comes from different countries – including Brazil and Turkey – and the Cosentino Group works only with quarries that provide firm guarantees relating to responsible quarrying.' 
 
That means, for example, that the landscape will be restored once the quarry has been depleted; that waste materials will be recycled; that the most advanced technology is deployed to ensure soil, air and water don't become be polluted.
 
As to actions taken once raw materials arrive at the company's factories, Alfonso says environmental responsibility is built-in to the entire manufacturing process, and for that reason there's continuous investment in the best available technology to recycle waste, minimise water consumption, ensure no water supplies can become contaminated, and to ensure local communities are not adversely impacted by the factories.
 
The company undertakes life cycle analysis of its products; for example in 2010 it carried out an LCA of its Silestone Eco Line, its recycled quartz surface material. 'This assessment sought to reduce the environmental impact associated with the product, improving efficiency in the consumption of raw materials and energy and the reduction of waste,' says Alfonso. 
 
Environmental risk minimisation is always ongoing in the company, and Alfonso highlights that Cosentino is accredited with ISO:1400:2004, the international certification for environmental management. Outstanding features of the company's environmental management include its policies for air control and dust and VOC reduction; water management with the achievement of continuous reuse and zero discharge, waste management and the re-use do waste as raw material for recycling into new products.
 
Deco conclusion: So if you want to do business with a company that does its best to minimise its carbon footprint within the parameters of the natural material it works with, Cosentino sounds a good bet.
 
Products
 
Silestone is the best-selling quartz surface material ideal for worktops in the home. It's a premium product that contains 90 per cent natural quartz and it comes in more than 60 colours. Its advantages include very low porosity, impact and scratch resistance and it's inherently antibacterial. The Silestone Eco line contains at least 50 per cent recycled materials which include post industrial and post consumer porcelain, glass, mirror and vitrified ash. These materials are blended with quartz, natural stone, pigments and a resin that's partially derived from vegetable matter. Eco was Cradle to Cradle certified in 2011. Silestone can be found in many commercial buildings such as Wembley Stadium, the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai and the Agbar Tower in Barcelona. 
 
Sensa is Cosentino's brand of granite that has undergone a special treatment that protects it from stains. The Sensa treament is applied via a chemical bonding process and Sensa granite is available in a wide range of colours.
 
Dekton is the ultra compact surface material launched in 2013 after many years' of research and development. It's produced via what's called sintered particle technology, a process that uses an accelerated high pressure treatment to compact the stone and other ingredients into a slim, highly resistant material that can be used indoors for worktops or for cladding building exteriors. Large format slabs are available and presently Dekton comes in 22 shades in the beige to brown spectrum. A recent addition is Red Dot winning Dekton Xgloss which has a brilliant crystalline shine. 
 
Cosentino is a company that ploughs a lot of its profits into R&D (13 million+ euros last year) and is prepared for the long haul when developing new materials: initial development of Dekton, for example, a compact sintered particle stone-based material, took some 22,000 man hours of research.
 
Cosentino's numbers are impressive: its turnover last year was 730 million euros; it sells to more than 80 countries; it has 95 Cosentino Centres around the world, 35 in the US, and five Cosentino City venues; 90 per cent of its production is for export; its head office and manufacturing compex in Almeria covers
one million m2; daily production of Dekton stands at 1500 slabs a day; the group owns seven factories, six in Spain and one in Brazil; the group's R&D company employs 34 researchers whose backgrounds lie in chemistry, physics, and engineering; it employs more than 3,500 people worldwide. And it has won the coveted National Award for Innovation by the Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness.
 
.
.
.