Wood-Plastic Composite Lumber vs. Wood Decking

Lead Author: Dr. Jim Bowyer

Publish date: 07.28.2010


Plastic “lumber” products began appearing in U.S. markets in the late 1980s.  Its development was stimulated both by the rising volume of largely un-recycled plastic waste for which uses were needed as well as by increasing consumer interest in more durable, lower maintenance outdoor products such as decking and fencing.


The major selling points for composite lumber are that it is free of potentially hazardous chemicals, and made largely from long-lasting, low-maintenance, recycled materials.   It is, thus, often promoted as an environmentally preferable or “green” alternative to other decking materials.  In this paper we examine the performance of wood-plastic composite (WPC) decking and its environmental properties. We also highlight a recently completed life cycle analysis (LCA) and comparison of WPC decking and western red cedar decking.  The recent third-party LCA study considered a number of environmental performance measures.