Is Composite Decking Better for the Environment?

Decking board

Composite decking is one of the most commonly used materials for deck building. But the question is, is composite decking better for the environment? Let’s compare it with other decking options and see whether it’s a good choice when it comes to being eco-friendly.

What are Composites Made up of?

Before anything else, what are composites made up of? Are the process and the materials used environmentally friendly? Composites, or wood-plastic composites, are materials made from plastic and wood fibres. Many manufacturers strive for more sustainability by using only recycled products. 

For plastic fibres, factories use plastic from bags, bottles, and other sources that would have ended up in landfills. It means that these non-biodegradable products are put to better use. As for the wood fibres, many manufacturers use industrial sawdust from other wood-processing plants. It includes sawdust from sawmills and furniture factories. Bamboos, wood barks, peanut hulls are also used in some instances. 

After acquiring the recycled materials, the plastic and wood fibres are blended and injected through a mould or processed through an extrusion machine.  

Composites vs Softwood and Hardwood

Trees are a renewable source. However, the larger the demand for wooden decking boards, the faster manufacturers cut down trees. While this may not be a problem at first, it can pose a problem if not enough time is provided for the trees to grow back. This is a problem, especially for hardwoods, as these types of trees don’t grow as fast as other types. Another problem with wooden decks is the need for sealing and staining them. These stains and seals are often fossil-fuel based chemicals, which are damaging to the environment.  

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The good thing about wood is that any of it can be reused and recycled. It can also be used as firewood. You can even use them to make new composite boards. On the other hand, manufacturers who produce composite decking materials don’t need to cut down trees. Instead, they can use industrial waste. Another good thing is that you don’t need to apply seals and stains to your composite deck. Not only will it save you money, but will also save the environment. 

Most composites end up in landfills by the end of its lifespan. However, many manufacturers are striving for sustainability as some boards can now be reused and recycled into new WPC boards. 

Composites vs Pressure-Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood is another category of materials, slightly different from regular softwoods and hardwoods. They are coated with chemicals to prevent rotting and insect damage. While it may be a step up from regular wood when it comes to durability, it’s less environmentally friendly. 

The chemicals used to treat these types of materials are poisonous to humans and the environment. So if you have kids and pets, better choose a different kind of decking material. 

Pressure-treated decking materials are also hazardous when burned. The toxic chemical will be released through the fire and the smoke, which is extremely dangerous when exhaled. After its lifespan, the only place pressure-treated wood is going is towards the landfills. It cannot be safely reused or recycled. 

Composites vs PVC

PVC or Polyvinyl chloride is another type of material used for decking. It is made from 100% plastic. With that said, is it environmentally friendly? The answer depends on how much of the material is made from renewable plastic. Some companies use 100% renewable sources, while others use human-made synthetic fibres. 

Like composites, they don’t need staining or sealing. So you don’t need to use and buy those harmful chemicals. They are also strong against moisture, weather damage, insect damage, and rotting. The only difference is that PVC is less wood-like compared to composites.

As for renewability, most PVC can be reused and recycled. However, disposing of the material through other means releases toxic materials that can be damaging to humans and the environment. Like pressure-treated boards, it’s best to choose another alternative if you have kids or pets in your house. 

Tags: Decking Better, Environment

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