Is Composite Decking Environmentally Friendly

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Have you ever paused to ponder the environmental footprint of your beautiful deck? With the surge in popularity of composite decking, homeowners like you are keen to understand its ecological impact.

This article aims to peel back the layers, addressing concerns and myths, and revealing whether composite decking is the eco-friendly champion we hope for.

A startling fact to consider: composite decks save 1 million trees annually. But does that make them green? Stay with us, and you’ll uncover the truth.

Environmental Impact of Composite Decking

Composite decking has its pros and cons concerning the environment. Its production involves various factors like energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste generation. Let’s delve into each of these to gauge how eco-friendly this decking option really is.

Energy and Resource Consumption During Production

Is it Energy Hungry?

  • Composite decking boards require a notable amount of energy during their manufacturing process.
  • From raw material extraction to transporting these materials, energy consumption is high.
  • Fossil fuels and water are also consumed at different stages.

But on a positive note, some manufacturers claim to be more sustainable by using recycled materials and earth-friendly methods. For instance, a wood deck made from natural wood would involve deforestation. In contrast, many composite decking products use repurposed wood fibres, decreasing the burden on timber resources.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Manufacturing Process

How ‘Green’ is it?

  • Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are released during the manufacturing processes. This is mostly due to the energy-intensive nature of making composite decking.
  • Plastic decking also releases toxic fumes, which further adds to the environmental impact.

Eco-friendliness varies among different brands. Some use reclaimed wood and plastic, thus lowering their carbon footprint.

Potential Pollution and Waste Generation

Is it a Waste Problem?

  • Waste like excess plastic and wood fibres is generated. If not managed well, this could end up in landfills.
  • Chemicals like stain and sealant are also often used, posing a risk of soil and water pollution.

Disposal and Longevity

  • Long-lasting as it may be, composite decking will eventually have to be disposed of.
  • Unlike natural wood decking, which can biodegrade, synthetic decking materials, particularly those made from polyvinyl chloride, have more complicated disposal methods.

Other Environmental Factors

  • Upkeep: One advantage is that composite decks require less maintenance, reducing the need for chemicals over their lifespan.
  • Longevity: Its long-lasting nature means fewer resources may be consumed for replacements.

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Decking environmental impact

Use of Recycled Materials in Composite Decking

Composite decking, often crafted from recycled materials like plastic and wood fibers, appears as an environmentally-friendly option for decking. Let’s delve into its makeup and eco-credentials.

Examination of Recycled Composite Decking

How are composite decking materials sourced?

Decking is made from a blend of recycled wood and plastic. The exact mixture of these materials can be diverse, contingent on the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Benefits of Using Recycled Plastics and Wood Fibers

Why should homeowners opt for decking made from recycled elements?

Incorporating recycled materials in every decking project is a step towards reducing our global waste footprint, ensuring materials don’t languish in landfills.

This sustainable approach trims the demand for virgin materials, driving a push towards conserving our strained natural resources.

For those thinking of their outdoor space’s longevity, recycled composite materials offer an added boon. Unlike wood, this decking doesn’t require the ritual of staining or sealing, and it’s resistant to the wear and tear of the elements, demanding minimal upkeep over the years.

Toxicity and Health Concerns of Composite Decking

Composite decking, due to its eco credentials and usage of recycled materials, is often perceived as an environmentally-friendly option for homeowners. Delving deeper into the topic, we must consider potential toxins within the composite products and their subsequent impact on health.

Discussion of Potential Toxins in Composite Decking Materials

Are there harmful chemicals lurking in your decking?

Composite decking is made largely of wood and plastic decking materials, and while it champions the usage of recycled products, some decking may contain traces of toxic chemicals.

When sourcing and choosing composite decking, it’s crucial to be wary of these chemicals, especially if the outdoor space is frequented by children or pets.

Certain staining and sealing products applied to the decking might contain harmful agents, and while composite decking doesn’t require staining or sealing frequently, it’s paramount to ensure that any treatments used are safe.

Assessment of the Impact of Toxic Chemicals on Human Health

What’s the real danger behind these chemicals?

When toxic chemicals are emitted into the air from decking products, they can have a severe impact on the environment throughout their lifecycle, from production to disposal.

Some of these chemicals may pose a threat to human health, especially if they are inhaled over prolonged periods.

Symptoms of exposure can range from mild irritations to more severe respiratory problems, depending on the type and amount of chemicals present.

Regulation and Standards for Non-Toxic Composite Decking

How is the industry responding to these concerns?

Recognising the potential hazards, many composite decking manufacturers have taken proactive steps to reduce and eliminate harmful substances in their products.

Certain companies have emerged as pioneers in this area. Trex, often considered the first company in Europe to adopt a holistic eco approach, ensures their products aren’t just long-lasting and water-resistant, but also free from harmful toxins.

As a testament to this shift, we now have benchmarks and regulations ensuring that products, such as wall partitioning boards or decking, meet rigorous health and safety standards.

For those considering decking options, it’s advisable to opt for brands and products that adhere to these standards, ensuring not only an eco-friendly option but also a safe one.


Composite decking eco benefits

Comparing Environmental Friendliness of Decking Materials

When assessing the eco credentials of decking materials, it’s evident that the environmental impact of composite decking, when juxtaposed with other options, showcases certain advantages. This comparison evaluates different decking materials, their life cycle, and the overall sustainability factor.

Comparison of Composite Decking’s Environmental Impact with Other Materials

Which decking material is the most eco-conscious?

  • Natural Wood: Natural wood decking, if procured from sustainably managed forests, can be an environmentally friendly option. Its shorter lifespan compared to composite decking, coupled with the need for regular maintenance, may lead to frequent replacements and waste. Thus, while decking made from woods like redwood or pine might be eco-friendly, they often require more upkeep.
  • Plastic Decking: Decking made from plastic, particularly those that can’t be recycled, has evident environmentally unfriendly aspects. Notably, it consists of synthetic materials, including toxic polymers like polyvinyl chloride.
  • Heat-Treated Lumber: This type of lumber is processed using chemicals, which can negatively impact the environment. Moreover, its transportation over long distances can amplify its carbon footprint.

Evaluation of the Life Cycle Analysis of Various Decking Options

How do different decking materials fare from production to disposal?

A comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) gauges the environmental repercussions of products from their initial phase of raw material extraction to the point of disposal.

A notable study by the University of Washington indicates that composite decking, in terms of global warming potential, water utilisation, and toxicity, has a lesser environmental detriment compared to its natural wood counterpart. When considering factors such as fossil fuel depletion and smog creation, composite decking appears to have a greater impact.

Identifying the Most Environmentally Friendly Decking Material

Seeking the greenest choice in decking?

The determination of the most sustainable decking material is influenced by numerous facets, including its manufacture, composition, and longevity.

Apart from the commonly known sustainable woods like douglas fir or bamboo, composite decking made from recycled plastic and reclaimed wood can also stand out as an environmentally-friendly option, provided it is produced via eco-conscious processes and doesn’t need to be replaced frequently.

Sustainable Alternatives for Decking

Eco-conscious individuals seek out sustainable alternatives for decking, grappling with the balance between environmental impact and functional benefits. In this context, sustainable wood and eco-friendly composite decking rise as the primary contenders.

Exploration of Eco-Friendly Decking Materials

What are the green alternatives to conventional decking materials?

Sustainable Wood

Decking materials such as redwood, western red cedar, Nootka cypress, pine, douglas fir, and bamboo stand as the vanguard of environmentally considerate options.


  • Derive from sources which, when responsibly managed, renew themselves, signifying that these trees have been felled judiciously.
  • They are biodegradable, ensuring that when their use as decking is considered complete, they don’t linger indefinitely, burdening the planet.
  • These woods captivate with their authentic, unblemished aesthetic, adding natural charm to any outdoor setting.


  • Such decking materials might require periodic maintenance sessions. They need to be stained and sealed regularly to maintain their pristine appearance.
  • Though charming, they tend to have a lifespan that’s in the short lengths of decking when juxtaposed with composite variants.
  • There’s an underlying threat of contributing to deforestation if these woods aren’t responsibly sourced, meaning thousands of trees might be felled without a plan for replenishment.

Eco-Friendly Composite Decking

A segment of composite decking products is crafted from recycled materials, weaving in eco-friendly principles into their design.


  • These decking materials harness recycled waste, attenuating the demand for virgin resources. This means fewer materials like plastic and wood need to be procured anew.
  • Their highly durable nature ensures that replacements aren’t on the cards frequently.
  • They herald a low maintenance lifestyle, devoid of constant touch-ups, water and soap baths, or re-stainings.


  • A challenge surfaces in that not all these composite varieties are recyclable, making their afterlife options in Europe and elsewhere a tad constrained.
  • Some may house environmentally adverse plastic polymers.
  • The industry witnesses varied manufacturing practices, lacking a standardised commitment to sustainability.

Delving into Long-Term Sustainability

How can we gauge the enduring sustainability of these decking materials?

For a holistic understanding, it’s pivotal to evaluate:

  • Renewability: The source’s capacity to rejuvenate, or if it stems from sustainably managed woods, determining how many trees have to be felled and how this impacts the environment.
  • Durability: The material’s ability to withstand the test of time and elements with years of minimal care.
  • Recyclability: Assessing if these boards need to be cut and discarded post their prime or if they can embrace a responsible afterlife.
  • Environmental Footprint: Comprehending the entire environmental trajectory, from the energy used in production to its application, and eventual disposal or recycling.

The verdict? Sustainable woods, while beautiful and renewable, require more care. They may not last as long but certainly have their appeal. Eco-friendly composite decking, on the other hand, is sturdy and easy to maintain. Not all variants are recyclable, and there might be some environmental concerns regarding certain polymers used. The optimal choice oscillates between individual preferences, environmental considerations, and the longevity desired for the decking space.


Choosing eco-friendly decking

Challenges and Innovations with Composite Decking

While composite decking offers several advantages, it’s not devoid of challenges. Delving into its common issues and subsequent improvements will provide insights for potential users.

Understanding Common Issues with Composite Decking

What are the prevalent concerns linked with composite decking?

1. Susceptibility to Moisture and Mold

If composite decking boards aren’t maintained appropriately, they may become a hotbed for moisture absorption. This, in turn, can lead to the proliferation of mold and mildew, which might pose health risks.

2. Warping and Deterioration

Composite decking isn’t immune to the forces of nature. Especially in areas with high temperatures, decking can’t maintain its form and might warp, causing uneven surfaces and potentially compromising structural integrity.

3. Stains and Fading

Prolonged sun exposure isn’t a friend to some composite materials. These boards can manifest symptoms like staining and fading, which mars their visual allure.

4. Vulnerability to Scratches

Everyday activities, whether it’s moving furniture or the playful antics of pets, can inflict scratches on the composite surface, detracting from its appearance.

5. Heat Retention

The sun’s radiant energy is used and absorbed by composite decking. During sweltering days, this decking can’t dissipate the heat rapidly, making it somewhat unfriendly to barefooted wanderers.

6. Limited Lifespan

For all its touted durability, the lifespan of composite decking might fall short when juxtaposed against some natural wood alternatives. This means that over the years, with minimal wear and tear, they might need to be replaced or repaired sooner.

Advancements in the Realm of Composite Decking

Technological leaps have spurred the evolution of composite decking, bringing to the fore solutions that combat its inherent challenges.

Capped Composite Decking

The dawn of capped composite decking, which is adorned with a protective shield, offers refuge against adversaries like moisture, staining, and UV-induced fading.

Heat-Resistant Variants

With the climate inching towards the hotter spectrum, some innovative brands have risen to the challenge, rolling out composite decking that doesn’t retain excessive heat.

Durability Enhancements

Revolutionary manufacturing techniques combined with judicious material choices are birthing versions of composite decking that not only last longer but also stand robust against environmental onslaughts.


Composite decking certainly touts environmentally-friendly credentials, particularly when considering its reduced maintenance and the use of recycled materials. It’s crucial to evaluate both its perks and pitfalls.

By choosing responsibly-sourced products and being mindful of end-of-life disposal, homeowners can indeed stride towards a greener decking experience. Remember, it’s not just about the choice, but how you implement and maintain it that makes the eco-friendly difference.