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Australia’s Ban on Reconstituted Stone: What this means for the industry.

09th Jul 2024

 

Engineered stone, also known as reconstituted stone, has been a popular choice for those building or renovating. For builders, it’s a cheaper option, and for homeowners, it’s a durable, low-maintenance option, making it a great choice for many.

On the surface, Australia’s controversial ban on reconstituted stone comes as a shock. But why was it banned in the first place, and how will this affect the industry?

 

WHAT CAUSED THE BAN?

As of July 1st, 2024, reconstituted stone will be completely banned – including the manufacture, supply, processing, and installation of reconstituted stone benchtops, panels, and slabs. This ban follows a long campaign supported by doctors, trade unions, and workers, prompted by compelling evidence from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations. The evidence indicates that working with reconstituted stone has severe, life-threatening effects on those exposed to it daily for extended periods.

Starting July 1st, 2024, reconstituted stone will be completely banned, including its manufacture, supply, processing, and installation. This ban follows a long campaign by doctors, trade unions, and workers, driven by evidence from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations showing severe, life-threatening effects on those working with it and exposed to it daily.

 

In recent years, cases of silicosis and silica-related diseases have surged in Australia, particularly among workers processing reconstituted stone daily. Stonemasons are the most affected due to the unique hazards of reconstituted stone dust.

Respirable crystalline silica from reconstituted stone has different properties than natural stone, including a higher proportion of nanoscale particles that can penetrate deeper into the lungs. Cutting or grinding reconstituted stone produces small dust particles that, when inhaled,  can cause silicosis, a deadly disease with no cure except for a lung transplant. Unlike natural stone, reconstituted stone is made from crushed stone bound by resins, pigments, and minerals, increasing health risks associated with its manufacture and use in construction projects.

In October 2023, Safe Work Australia recommended a ban on the sale, manufacture, and installation of all engineered stone to protect workers’ health. In response, large companies like Bunnings and Ikea quickly removed reconstituted stone from their ranges. Following widespread media coverage and public discussion, the Australian government announced a world-first ban on reconstituted stone starting July 1, 2024. NSW, SA, NT, and WA have agreed to a six-month transition period, while Vic, QLD, WA, and the ACT will enforce the ban from July 1st.

 

IMPACTS OF THE BAN

This ban will no doubt have significant economic effects on building and construction and supply chains both here in Australia and internationally.

However, this ban has raised much-needed public awareness about the health risks for workers handling these materials. New guidelines have been established to ensure health monitoring and enforce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Consumer confidence in the building and construction industries will rise as companies adapt to new regulations following the ban. Transparent communication about product safety and compliance with health standards will help build trust. This shift requires companies to be upfront about the materials and processes used in their products, moving away from reconstituted stone.

 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR CONSUMERS – WHAT NEXT?

Luckily, this ban doesn’t affect existing reconstituted stone already installed or cut, but it forces those in construction and consumers planning to build or renovate to reconsider their choices.

Reconstituted stone has always dominated the market due to factors like price and durability, This ban has prompted industry professionals and consumers to cast their net wider to more natural sustainable options, with many consumers shifting towards natural stone.

Natural stone emerges as a sustainable alternative with minimal environmental impact compared to reconstituted stone. Sourced responsibly through quarrying and mining, natural stone offers durability, aesthetic variety, and unique characteristics that synthetic alternatives cannot replicate. Each slab of natural stone is distinct, reflecting its geological origins and adding a personal, natural touch to any project.

Consumers increasingly favour natural stone for its authenticity, environmental benefits, and enduring appeal. Despite misconceptions about affordability, natural stone offers options across budgets, from granite and marble to quartzite and limestone. Embracing the natural flaws and unique features of each slab contributes to its charm and authenticity, qualities that resonate with homeowners seeking timeless beauty and sustainable building materials.

Natural stone can and will always be replicated, but authenticity can never be replaced.

“While reconstituted stone benchtops have their place in modern kitchens, the benefits of natural stone make it a compelling choice for those seeking beauty, durability, and value. The unique appearance, long-lasting nature, and eco-friendly aspects of natural stone can transform your kitchen into a luxurious and functional space that stands the test of time” is a nice overall quote to finish off the blog post.” says Gareth Edwards of Finestone.

Looking to build or renovate? Want to see why natural stone the NATURAL alternative to Reconstituted Stone. Choose only the finest, contact us today