August 24, 1989
CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 084608 HP
TARIFF NO.: 6810.11.0000; 6810.19.1000; 6810.99.0000
Mr. Melvin E. Lazar Barnes, Richardson & Colburn 475 Park Avenue South New York, NY 10016
RE: Classification of stone agglomerated with plastic resins
Dear Mr. Lazar:
This is in reply to your letter of April 28, 1989 to our New York office, concerning the tariff classification of stone agglomerated with plastic resins, manufactured by PBI/Plastibeton, Inc., produced in Canada, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).
The merchandise at issue consists of granite or quartz stone articles agglomerated with plastic resins. The products made from these stone articles, and the only products covered by this ruling are Polymer-Granite~ counter tops, Plastibeton| Channel Systems, and Polymer-Granite~ Paving Stones. The Polymer-Gran- ite~ base material is composite stone made from 95 percent granite and quartz, and five percent petrochemicals. Through a computerized system, the base material is conveyed, pumped, dried, weighed, metered, and blended with over a dozen raw materials. Sheet products are then manufactured in a continuous process of forming, curing, gauging, polishing, cutting, and finishing. You state that the paving stones and channel systems are used solely for street improvement and outdoor patio areas, and for housing electrical cables, respectively.
What is the classification of the agglomerated stone under the HTSUSA?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Heading 6802, HTSUSA, provides for natural monumental or building stone (except slate) which has been worked beyond the stage of normal quarry products. The Explanatory Notes to the HTSUSA constitute the official interpretation of the tariff schedule at the international level. Explanatory Note 68.02 states, in pertinent part:
[a]rticles such as slabs, tiles, etc., obtained by agglomerating pieces of natural stone with cement or other binders (e.g., plastics), ... are classified as artificial stone articles in heading 68.10.
Heading 6810, HTSUSA, covers moulded, pressed or centrifuged articles of cement, concrete, or artificial stone. Explanatory Note 68.10 defines artificial stone as
... an imitation of natural stone obtained by agglomerating pieces of natural stone or crushed or powdered natural stone (limestone, marble, granite, porphyry, serpentine, etc.) with lime or cement or other binders (e.g., plastics).
We are of the opinion that the merchandise at issue is of artificial stone, and is classifiable under Heading 6810, HTSUSA.
The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) to the HTSUSA govern the classification of goods in the tariff schedule.
GRI 1 states, in pertinent part:
... classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes ....
Goods which cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 are to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI's, taken in order.
Subheading 9403.20.0020, HTSUSA, provides for parts of counters and other furniture. Note 3 to Chapter 94, HTSUSA, narrows the scope of "parts" in Heading 9403 by stating that
(a) * * * references to parts of goods do not include references to sheets or slabs (whether or not cut to shape but not combined with other parts) of glass (including mirrors), marble or other stone or of any other material referred to in chapter 68 or 69. [em- phasis added]. You state that the counter tops in their imported condition will consist purely of agglomerated stone, and will not include any pieces or materials designed to facilitate attachment of the counter tops to their applicable body parts. Based upon this infor- mation, it is our opinion that the counter tops import- ed alone are not classifiable as parts of furniture under Chapter 94, HTSUSA, but as other articles of artificial stone.
You state that while the bulk of the channel systems will be imported solely as agglomerated stone, a small percentage will also include plastic dividers.
GRI 3 states, in pertinent part:
When by application of Rule 2(b) [goods of more than one material or substance] or for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, classification shall be effected as follows:
* * *
(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) [which requires that goods be classified, if possible, under the more specific of the competing provisions], shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.
It is clear that the agglomerated stone material provides the channel systems with their essential character. The channel systems are designed to house or protect electrical cables and pipes. See PBI Brochure on Polymer-Granite~ Products at 18. It is the strength and resistance of the stone which accomplishes this; the dividers only serve to avoid entanglements. Therefore, the channel systems are also classifiable as other articles of artificial stone.
Subheading 6810.19.10, HTSUSA, provides for floor and wall tiles. Subheading 6810.11, HTSUSA, provides for building blocks and bricks. Subheading 6810.19.50, HTSUSA, provides for other similar articles, including flagstones. The issue is therefore whether the paving stones are considered tiles under the HTSUSA, and, if so, whether they can be classified as "floor tiles" for the purposes of Subheading 6810.19.10. Webster's II New River- side University Dictionary (1984), aids us in our quest as follows:
tile (t-il) n. ... 1. A thin, flat, or convex slab of material, as baked clay or plastic, laid in rows to cover walls, floors, and roofs.
* * *
3. A hollow fired clay or concrete block used for building walls.
* * *
flagstone ... A flat, fine-grained, hard, evenly-lay- ered stone split into slabs for use in paving.
You state that the sole uses of the paving stones are for outdoor patio construction and street improvement projects. It seems clear that Websters' definition of tiles, supra, would apply. In addition, though not dispositive, we have observed
"paving tiles" in the stream of modern commerce. Therefore, the paving stones, through one of its two "sole purposes," could be classified as tiles under HTSUSA.
You contend that as the paving stones are used exclusively in an outdoor context, classification as floor or wall tiles is incorrect. This argument is without basis. Items in the shape of tiles may be used in either an indoor or outdoor setting; i.e., a kitchen floor, a plaza, a patio, or a street. The paving stones at issue are not similar to "paving tiles" as used in modern commerce; these are normally thick, interlocking bricks.
The instant merchandise has the appearance of indoor floor tile, with a smooth top and a pleasant appearance. Whether used indoor or out (you state that patios are a primary use of the stones), it is our opinion that the "paving stones" can be considered floor tiles for the purposes of classification under HTSUSA.
You also state that you have the capability to manufacture, and indeed have advertised, what you label as "floor tiles." While this may be true, it would not affect the classification of the aforementioned paving stones. Additional U.S. Note 2 to Chapter 68, HTSUSA, limits tiles to articles less than 3.2 centimeters in thickness. You state that the thickness of the paving stones to be imported into the United States ranges between one and two inches. Therefore, following the above- mentioned analysis, those paving stones imported at a thickness less than 3.2 centimeters would be considered floor or wall tiles under subheading 6810.19.1000 HTSUSA, and those stones over 3.2 centimeters thick would fall under 6810.11.0000, HTSUSA, as articles similar to paving tiles and flagstones, building blocks and bricks.
As a result of the foregoing, the counter tops and channel systems are classifiable under subheading 6810.99.0000, HTSUSA, as articles of cement, of concrete or of artificial stone, whether or not reinforced, other articles, other. The applicable rate of duty is 4.9 percent ad valorem. The paving stones under 3.2 centimeters in width are classifiable under subheading 6810.19.1000, HTSUSA, as articles of cement, of concrete or of artificial stone, whether or not reinforced, tiles, flagstones, bricks and similar articles, other, floor and wall tiles. The applicable rate of duty is 20 percent per square meter. The paving stones 3.2 centimeters and greater in width are classifi- able under subheading 6810.11.0000, HTSUSA, as articles of cement, of concrete or of artificial stone, whether or not reinforced, tiles, flagstones, bricks and similar articles, building blocks and bricks. The applicable rate of duty is 4.9 percent ad valorem.
It has come to our attention that the instant merchandise is already in port, and at this time, may be entering the customs territory of the United States. While this situation is normally not subject to a binding ruling letter under the District Ruling Program, we have taken the position that, in the interests of administrative manageability, we will rule on this merchandise.
It is stressed, however, that this binding classification per- tains only to those articles herein described; any other products possibly being simultaneously imported are not addressed.
John Durant, Director Commercial Rulings Division