Plastic Lumber Companies Build Decks From Recycled Plastic

These plastic lumber companies build decks from recycled plastic. The plastic product, called Trex lumber, is waterproof and inert and will never need replacing.

| June/July 2000

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    Intended mainly for outdoor use, plastic lumber is waterproof and inert and will never need replacing.

  • 180-012-01

Recycled plastic finds new life as lumber. Learn about how companies build decks from recycled plastic bags used at grocery stores. 

Dear Mother,
The redwood timbers I used for my raised beds need to be replaced, and someone suggested that I use recycled plastic wood. But I've also heard that the plastic leaches chemicals into the ground, and since this is a vegetable garden, I want to be as safe as possible. Any advice?

—Barbara W. 

A handful of manufacturers nationwide are busy turning heaps of our plastic waste into durable "lumber." Know those bins in supermarket entries where you stuff used plastic grocery sacks? More and more, the contents are being sold to plastic lumber companies for recycling, instead of going to a landfill to resist decomposition forever.

Some companies, like the Colorado-based Ecodeck and Phoenix Recycled Plastics of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, use 100% recycled plastics; others, including the Trex Company of Winchester, Virginia, build decks from recycled plastic by mixing reclaimed plastics with industrial waste hardwood fibers to produce artificial wood planking.

Intended mainly for outdoor use, plastic lumber is waterproof and inert and will never need replacing, unlike even the most thoroughly poison-impregnated (with copper and arsenic) conventional pressure-treated (PT) lumber. Termites can't eat it and molds won't infiltrate it. Nothing can soak in or leach out so it's ideal for raised beds.

6/28/2014 3:13:06 AM

I had been doing some reading on plastic lumber and, looking back on this article written in 2000, it's a little disappointing that the mother earth news writer seems to have swallowed the plastic industry's PR about the durability of plastic lumber. There have been several class action lawsuits against the Trex company as well as others because their plastic/wood composite lumber did not hold up well after just two or three years. I'm still looking for authoritative information about plastic lumber. People I know want to use it for their raised garden beds. I'm a little leery of growing food around plastic because there are so many issues with the chemicals in plastic. The HealthyBuilding.Net has a useful Guide to Plastic Lumber (2005), but I'm looking for something more recent (2014).

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