In the modern day, the environmental impact of the products we use has become increasingly important. As climate change has become a reality, consumers are more and more concerned with lessening their carbon footprints and reducing waste.
If you’re thinking of purchasing composite decking for a project then you probably have similar concerns. You want to make sure that you’re choosing the most environmentally-friendly option available.
So, is composite decking an environmentally-friendly option?
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into the environmental friendliness of composite decking. We’re also going to take a look at the environmental impacts of other decking materials to see how they compare to composite decking.
What Is Composite Decking Made Of?
The reason that our composite decking materials are environmentally-friendly is that they’re made with recycled plastic and reclaimed wood fibres. Using this mix means that composite decking boards are highly durable, long-lasting and water-resistant.
It also means that they have less impact on the environment than other decking materials.
However, not all composite decks are as environmentally-friendly and some companies’ products only contain 80% recycled materials. Our composite decking is made using up to 95% recycled materials and all of our wood is certified by the FSC.
Being certified by the FSC means that all of the wood we use in our composite decking must come from responsible and sustainable sources. This greatly contributes to the eco-friendliness of our composite decking products.
How Environmentally-Friendly Is Composite Decking? Pros & Cons
There are many reasons why composite decking is the most environmentally-friendly option but as with all materials, there are also some slight downsides to it as well.
However, the positives outweigh the negatives and building a composite deck could be one of the ways in which you contribute to a more sustainable future for the environment.
- Felled trees – the wood that’s used to make composite decking is recycled which means no trees have to be felled to make it. This contributes to the preservation of forests and limits the environmental impact of composite deck boards.
- Reduced waste – as composite decking is made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastics that are normally difficult to recycle the amount of waste that goes to landfills or is released into the environment is reduced.
- Longevity – composite decking has a much longer lifespan than wood decking due to the materials that are used to make it. This means that they need to be replaced less frequently which leads to a reduction in the energy and material inputs required to make new decking. This also means that there is less scrapped material going to landfills as there is when timber decking is replaced.
- Fewer chemicals – composite decking is very low-maintenance and doesn’t need to be stained or sealed as natural wood decking does. The only maintenance it requires is an occasional cleaning with soap and water. This reduces the number of harmful chemicals that enter the soil and water from staining and sealing products.
- Recyclability – Ecoscape will be the first company in Europe to have an afterlife option, once our composite products have been used and are no longer needed, the customer will be able to return the boards to Ecoscape where we will reuse to create products such as wall partitioning boards, substructure and pallet components.
- Repurposing limitations – as with wood decking, composite decking boards need to be cut before they’re installed. This leads to a number of short lengths of decking that are too short to be used to build composite decks. Although they can be repurposed for certain things such as birdhouses, coasters, outdoor furniture and planters, there will inevitably be some short lengths that will go to waste.
Is Composite As Environmentally-Friendly As Other Decking Materials?
There are other decking materials such as wood decking, UPVC decking and aluminium decking that have certain environmentally-friendly properties as well. However, when compared to composite decking their disadvantages are much greater and they don’t really stack up.
Although none of these other materials can claim to be as environmentally-friendly as composite decking let’s take a close look at their pros and cons to see how they compare.
Wood pros & cons
- Easy disposal – natural wood decomposes quickly meaning it is easier to dispose of than other materials such as plastic decking. It also means that it costs less to dispose of wood than it does for other materials.
- Resource replenishment – although trees must be felled in order to produce wood decking, trees are not a finite resource and can be replanted and sustainably harvested for an indefinite amount of time. This is especially true for companies that only use FSC-certified wood to make their products.
- Recycling and reclaiming – if there is wood decking left over after building a wood deck there are many uses for it. It can be repurposed for building other things such as garden furniture, fences, bird homes, as well as many other projects. When its service life comes to an end it can even be used as fuel to generate electricity or can be ground into mulch. It can also be burned in fire pits as long as it is free of coatings or preservatives.
- Sequestering of carbon – if companies source their wood in a sustainable way then it actually means that more trees are planted than are cut down. This leads to more carbon being sequestered from the environment by trees which can help to slow down climate change.
- Deforestation – although many rainforests and old-growth forests are now legally protected in order to prevent deforestation there is still unsustainable harvesting of trees that takes place. The best way to ensure that the wood you purchase is responsibly sourced is to check that the supplier you use is FSC-certified.
- Harmful chemicals – the vast majority of timber that’s used in wood decking is pressure-treated wood. Although it’s fairly cheap to buy it comes with a few negatives. One of them is that the insecticides and anti-rot chemicals that are infused into the wood are damaging to the environment and can be detrimental to your health. This means that pressure-treated wood should never be burned. It also means that if it goes to a landfill at the end of its service life these chemicals may eventually be released into the environment.
- Maintenance chemicals – unlike composite decking, wood decking needs regular maintenance to prevent it from rotting and developing mould. The stainers, sealers and chemical cleaners that are used to do this are harmful to the environment and can easily find their way into the water table.
UPVC pros & cons
- Maintenance – as with composite decking, UPVC decking requires little maintenance and doesn’t need to be stained or sealed as natural wood decking does.This means that once it’s installed no more chemicals need to be added to it which would be released into the environment.
- Deforestation – as plastic decking is made without the use of wood no trees need to be felled for it to be created. Although this does make it slightly more environmentally friendly this is unfortunately offset by the manufacturing processes that are required to make it.
- Manufacturing processes – UPVC decking is entirely man-made and is composed of polyvinyl chloride. During the manufacturing process of polyvinyl chloride, harmful toxins are released into the environment which contributes to air, land and water pollution. Pollution such as this leads to health problems and serious environmental damage.
- Recyclability – in most cases UPVC decking can’t be recycled once it reaches the end of its service life. There are only two ways of disposing of it due to the fact it isn’t bio-degradable, landfills or incineration. Incineration means that the harmful chemicals used to create polyvinyl chloride are released into the environment as it’s burned, which causes pollution. When UPVC decking ends up in a landfill it will stay buried in the ground indefinitely as it doesn’t biodegrade.
Aluminium pros & cons
- Long lifespan – aluminium decking has a very long lifespan meaning it doesn’t need to be replaced often which limits the amount of waste and scrap material that ends up in landfills.
- Low-maintenance – as with composite decking, aluminium decking doesn’t need to be sealed or treated. This reduces its environmental impact by preventing harmful chemicals from treating products being released into the environment.
- Easy to transport – aluminium decking is considered to be easy to transport which means that its carbon footprint is reduced.
- Highly recyclable – aluminium can be recycled many times without the quality of the material being degraded. It’s estimated that 75% of all the aluminium that’s ever been produced is still being used today. When compared to producing new aluminium, recycling it reduces its energy footprint by up to 92%.
- Aluminium extraction – when new aluminium is extracted a huge amount of energy is used in the process. This actually means that new aluminium has a higher energy footprint than most other decking materials. The mines from which it is sourced are also usually open-pit mines and strip mines. These cause massive damage to the environment and pollute the nearby forests, waterways and soil.
How long should composite decking last?
One of the main reasons that composite decking is environmentally-friendly is that it has a very long lifespan. You can expect our composite decks to last for between 2o and 25 years.
This means that they have to replace far less often than wooden deck boards which lessens their impact on the environment.
Does composite decking need to be sealed and stained?
One reason that composite decking is more environmentally-friendly than wood decking is the fact that it doesn’t need to be sealed or stained. This means that the harmful chemicals contained in many sealants and staining products aren’t released into the environment.
The reason that these products are harmful to the environment is the ingredients that are used to make them. Most of these products contain synthetic or natural resins, solvents, thinners, dyes, pigments and other harmful additives.
How do I maintain composite decking?
Composite decking requires very little maintenance and only needs to be cleaned around once every three to six months.
Unlike wood decking, you don’t need to use any harmful, chemical cleaning products to do this. You can simply clean composite decking with hot water and soap, or use a power washer.
Is composite decking toxic to humans?
Composite decking is made from wood fibres and plastic polymers that are not toxic to humans, animals or the environment.
No toxic chemicals are released into the environment during the manufacturing process and once composite decking is installed there is no risk of any harm to yourself or others.
It’s made using a co-extrusion process which doesn’t involve toxic chemicals. This is one of the reasons that it is much more environmentally friendly than other materials such as UPVC decking.
When compared to other materials, it’s clear that composite decking is amongst the most environmentally-friendly options available. As with all materials, there are some downsides but these are certainly outweighed by the positives.
UPVC decking and wood decking may have some benefits but they are far less environmentally-friendly than composite decking overall. In fact, UPVC decking appears to be the most harmful to the environment of all the materials that are used for decking.
So, if you’re looking for the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly option when building a deck, our composite decking is definitely the best choice for you! Why not get in touch today to get a free quote for your project?