Composite woods are a hybrid of wood fibers, plastics, and binding agents. Depending on the compositions of the wood made, the outcome can rival or be stronger than natural woods.
–Composite wood can last longer than many natural woods. (ref)
– Little maintenance is needed for the material. (ref)
– It can use recycled wood in its creation. (ref)
– A very versatile wood, it can be used in a lot of different ways in a garden, from decking to fencing. (ref)
– It is man-made so it can be tailored to order. Even with the colour of the materials. (ref)
– Because it is a hybrid, it can be made from smaller trees, unconventional ones too. (ref) This relieves pressure on normal woods used in timber.
– In many cases, post-production waste products, like sawdust, can be used in the creation of the material, recycling potential waste products. (ref)
– It can usually be locally sourced, so less energy and fuels are used to transport it. (ref)
– Composite can be FSC certified, meaning the wood used has been sustainably sourced.
– As it is a hybrid, the material cannot be recycled. (ref)
– Plastics are used in the creation, (ref) and plastic is made from a nonrenewable source that decays slowly.
– There are potential issues with heat and fire, plastics can have varying melting points. (ref)
– Lower-priced composites may have issues with chemical leaks. (ref)
– The material is man-made, meaning that energy and fuels will be used in its creation. Process wood timbers will not use.
Composite Wood Summary
Wood-plastic composite woods last longer than natural woods, which reduces the number of times a decking or furniture will need to be replaced, meaning that it will not need to be replaced for a while which reduces the number of materials consumed in the long run. Composites also have the benefit of being able to be made from recycled or waste wood, turning waste products into long-lasting materials. In terms of transportation, composites are usually locally sourced, reducing potential CO2 emissions if another material was purchased. Despite its perks, however, composite cannot be recycled, and will take an extremely long time to decompose. There are also extra environmental costs in the fact the product is man-made, and will need further energy to produce. Composite may take pressure off of forests and recycle materials, but it will stay in landfills etc. for a lot longer than natural materials, and with most gardens being replaced every 10-20 years, the longevity of composite may be wasted and not needed. Whilst woods will not last as long as Composite, alternate materials can include Oak or Cedar, Ipé does last an incredible amount of time, (but of course, have its own issues).
It may be worth considering the fact that most UK gardens seem to be replaced within 20-30 years, be that through redesign or a new homeowner altering the garden. If a garden will be replaced in a short period of time, it may not be worth using longer-lasting materials that will not be able to live out their full potential, and a more sustainable, faster growing, and faster degrading wood may be applicable, such as a species of Pine.