Wood-plastic composite decking has made major advances in material performance, processing and user acceptance. The growth of wood-plastic composite decking in North America has grown from less than 1 % in mid- 0's to over 10% today with growth projected by several studies to reach +20% before the end of this decade (2010). Preservative-treated wood decking experienced a very similar market entry and growth to market dominance over the 1970's and 80's in this same outdoor decking market when treated-wood supplanted naturally-durable redwood and cedar decking materials. Wood Plastic Composites in North America
Now that wood-plastic composites have become a major player in the North American decking market, many of the lessons learned in how treated-wood decking has historically been used, removed from service, and then discarded or recycled may help the wood-plastic composites industry and the recycling industry prepare for their future materials and their needs. This paper will discuss the materials and process issues of wood- plastic composites related to future recycling efforts. It will then detail how wood-plastic composite decking may be used and later discarded based on a combination of material property and durability issues, as well as consumer perceptions, needs, and non-performance issues. Each may significantly affect how soon and how much WPC decking material is removed from service. The recycling industry must be prepared to handle these materials in the near future.
As per a report by Freedonia, demand for wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber is projected to advance about 10% pa through 2011 to US$5.4 bln. These alternative lumber materials are expected to continue to penetrate the building materials market at a rapid pace, particularly in decking applications. Composite and plastic lumber will continue to benefit from their performance characteristics, such as durability, weatherability, low maintenance requirements and low life cycle cost. Demand for composite and plastic lumber will also be driven by increasing consumer and contractor familiarity, a widening distribution network and product improvements that enhance appearance. Furthermore, ongoing interest in "green" building products will bolster use of composite and plastic lumber made with recycled content. Plastic lumber has found significant use in agricultural fencing, molding and trim applications.
Solid growth in decking, fencing and other end uses such as site and leisure furniture will continue to support demand going forward. However, WPC lumber will see much faster growth through 2011, posting gains of 14.3% pa to reach US$2.6 bln. Composite lumber demand will be fueled by strong demand in decking applications. In addition, rapid growth in windows and door applications, as well as smaller niche end uses (porches, site and leisure furniture) will support demand going forward. Among the major product categories window and door applications for WPCs are anticipated to post the most rapid gains through 2011 (albeit from a small base). As with other applications, WPC window and door components are making inroads because of their lower maintenance requirements, durability in exterior applications and similarities to wood. Wood Plastic Composite Gazebos
Decking applications are projected to see strong gains through 2011, continuing to increase its relative share of the composite and plastic lumber industry. By 2011, decking will be the largest end use for these alternative building materials, accounting for 44% of demand. Molding and trim will remain a key market for composite and plastic lumber, but will exhibit below-average growth through 2011. Increasing market maturity in the plastic lumber segment will limit growth, as will a weak new housing environment going forward. Fencing applications will see below-average gains through 2011, due to increasing market maturity in the plastic lumber segment. All other applications are projected to see rapid growth over the forecast period from small bases.
Playground equipment and site and leisure furniture applications are expected to register strong gains through 2011, driven by the environmentally friendly profile of composite and plastic lumber, as well as their performance and maintenance characteristics. The US wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber industry is highly fragmented, consisting of hundreds of companies ranging from small, regional producers to large, national concerns. Manufacturers typically specialize in one type of material, although some companies offer both composite and plastic lumber. In 2006, the leading composite and plastic lumber firms were Louisiana- Pacific, Royal Group Technologies, Tapco International and Trex.
As per another report by Freedonia, although demand for wood decking in the US is projected to advance less than 1% pa through 2013, demand for alternative decking will grow nearly 10% pa. Demand for wood-plastic composite decking is forecast to rise 9.5% pa to 700 million lineal feet, while demand for plastic and other decking is projected to advance 9.7% pa to 135 million lineal feet in 2013.
Overall, demand for decking will reach 3.6 billion lineal feet, valued at US$5.2 bln. Consumers will be attracted to alternative decking materials because of their long lifespans, minimal maintenance requirements, and imperviousness to degradation caused by general wear and tear and long-term exposure to moisture. In addition to its performance characteristics, gains in demand for composite decking will be encouraged by its close resemblance to natural wood, its ability to be cut like wood decking, and the perception that it is an environmentally friendly material, due to the use of reclaimed plastics in its production.
Advances in demand for plastic decking will be driven by the high durability of this product, making it ideal for use in public parks, commercial spaces, and such facilities as dockyards and marinas. Wood decking will continue to account for the majority of decking demand in volume and value terms. Demand for wood decking is forecast to rise less than 1% pa to 2.8 bln lineal feet in 2013. Advances will be restrained by heavy competition from other materials, although increasing consumer interest in tropical hardwoods will offer some bright spots.
The residential market, which accounted for 61% of total decking demand in 2008, will continue to account for the majority of decking demand through 2013, posting 2.6% annual growth rates. Advances will be boosted by consumers adding amenities to their existing decks, such as outdoor kitchens, spas and hot tubs, and areas for other activities. Not only do these larger decks require deck boards, but many homeowners will install additional railings and other accessories to separate areas of the deck, in order to enhance the safety of their decks by preventing falls by small children or older adults. Further gains will be derived from an expected recovery in new housing construction from the low level in 2008. new Building Materials
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