Is Composite Decking Eco-Friendly?

Decking

Aussies love an outdoor deck. It provides a space to relax and enjoy the outdoors and it’s a great place to enjoy a beer and a barbecue. A well-built deck can add value to your home and make the most of your outdoor space.

If you’re considering a decking project for your home, one of the first things you need to think about is the decking material. The most common decking materials are timber and composite wood decking.

One of the most common considerations around decking material is whether or not the decking boards are eco-friendly. While timber may seem like an environmentally friendly choice, it actually comes with a number of downsides.

Native and tropical hardwoods have long been popular as decking materials. While these are natural materials, unethical sourcing of these timbers can contribute to deforestation and habitat degradation. Sustainably sourced, fast-growth timber from ethically managed plantations can be a good choice. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine whether these products are actually sourced and harvested sustainably.

So, what about composite decking? Can these other decking products provide an eco-friendly alternative to traditional timber decking? Well, let’s have a look.

Composition

Composite decking boards are engineered to look and feel like natural timber. The composition varies depending on the brand and type of product. However, in general, composite boards are made from a mixture of timber and plastic products. A premium brand of composite wood decking will use a mixture of reclaimed timber and recycled plastics.

The reclaimed timber products include bamboo, sawdust, offcuts and other wood waste that would otherwise end up in landfill or be incinerated. As a result, these composite products help to reduce the amount of material that ends up in landfill, as well as reducing demand for new timber.

The plastic products in composite decking include a range of recycled materials like plastic bags, bottles and plastic wrapping. Plastic can generally only be down-cycled. This means that light plastic bags cannot be recycled into sturdier plastic products like bottles. Instead of plastic bags and wrapping materials reaching the end of their useful life, they can be incorporated into composite boards. Again, this reduces the amount of plastic waste ending up in landfill or, even worse, in waterways.

Composite Decking

Eco-friendly manufacturing

If a product uses a lot of recycled materials, but requires a high energy input for manufacturing, this can negate the environmental benefits of the recycled materials.

If you’re considering using composite decking products, but you’re concerned about the environmental impact, it’s always worth exploring the manufacturing process.

Premium composite decking products will be made with an eco-friendly manufacturing process that uses minimal water and energy and produces few waste materials. The process should also be free from toxic chemicals, like those used to pressure-treat timber.

Few chemicals for maintenance

One of composite decking’s main advantages over timber is the minimal amount of maintenance required. Unlike timber decking, composite boards don’t need regular oiling, painting, sealing or staining to protect the surface. They also don’t require chemical treatments to protect them from termites, rot and mould.

As a result, composite decking boards don’t need ongoing fossil-fuel based chemical treatment for cleaning and maintenance. That means you will be using a lot fewer chemicals over the life of the deck, compared to timber decking.

Ultra-durable

Composite decking is engineered to be more durable and long lasting than traditional timber boards. Longevity is an essential consideration when choosing eco-friendly products.  The longer a product lasts, the better it justifies the energy and materials used in its manufacturing.

In general, composite decking has a much longer lifespan than traditional wood decking. Read Dos and Don’ts of Composite Deck Installation

So, while composite decking is not a “natural” product, it does carry some pretty serious eco-credentials. However, it’s important to remember that different brands will offer very different products made with very different manufacturing processes. And not all will be eco-friendly. So make sure you do your research.