Surface Spotlight – Magna Glaskeramik
The Crystalised Beauty of Recycled Glass Surfaces
The Ethical Stone team visit the Glaskeramik factory near Leipzig in Germany and discover a production process that delights the senses.
” A visit to the Glaskeramik factory is exhilarating mix of former East German industrial processes combined with the sensory delights of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! “
First the glass – industrial waste glass that would otherwise be either recycled into bottles or sent to landfill – is crushed and pressed in giant shiny stainless steel hoppers which resemble conical wine making fermentation tanks. Bottles, window panes and millions of shards crack and rumble like a passing freight train pulling a cargo of loose crockery as the glass is refined and broken down into consistently sized ‘flakes’. These flakes – their size and shape – are key to achieving the special and unique appearance of the finished product.
Next the special flakes are transferred to the glass waterfall. You know you’ve reached this stage of the production process when you hear the continual tinkling sound of glass on glass, a forest of tiny bells as the flakes clink and chime, sliding downwards into the large trays that will form the shape of the three metre plus panels of Glaskeramik. A production supervisor checks that the surface is level and has one final look for impurities amongst the layers of sparkling flakes before the tray is transferred, via a miniature rail track system which runs up and down the entire length of the factory floor, to one of the crystallising ovens.
It’s important to point out that the heating and crystallising process uses less energy than standard glass bottle recycling. The temperatures reached by the Glaskeramik ovens are far lower (two thirds less heat is required compared to full glass bottle recycling), just enough heat to create the magic that transforms layered glass flakes into a new and extraordinary crystalised glass surface.
It was late in the evening when we were invited back into the factory to witness the glass tray we had seen earlier being rolled out of the oven on its little railway truck. In the half light of the cavernous factory building, winches squeaked and turned and the oven lid slowly raised. There, like a slab of orange magma, the Glaskeramik surface glowed and the intense heat was almost too much to bear. As we retreated to the cooler Saxony air outside, we felt privileged to have witnessed this unveiling, like the discovery of a new kind of element, born of fire, crystals… and sustainable upcycled glass.
A note about the colour!
The 100% recycling process that leads to a Magna Glaskeramik surface means that 100% of nothing is added – no colours, no pigments, no resins, no glues – just the crystalised beauty of 100% recycled glass. The colour of the original recycled material dictates the final colour, tone and translucency of the Glaskeramik surface. For example, green beer bottles (mostly Heineken!) will create the rich verdant colour that is Glaskeramik ‘Green’, whilst ‘Jade’ will be from a more subtle source of green glass waste.
The deep Ocean Blue and lighter shaded Blue Sky originate from the blues of mineral water bottles. Even champagne bottles help to make the Brown!