New System Ranks Plastic Lumber Companies

Looking for an alternative to arsenic-treated lumber? Finding the right recycled products for your construction project just got easier, thanks to a new classification system from the Healthy Building Network (HBN).

The organization, composed of green building professionals and environmental and health advocates, released the classification system in late June. Bill Walsh, national coordinator of HBN, says the new system judges lumber in three categories: materials used, amount of recycled content and potential for recycling in the future.

HBN classifies 38 brands of plastic lumber with the letters A through K. “A” products are considered the most environmentally preferable, and consumers are advised to avoid “I,” “J” and “K.” The 14 brands that received an “A” are: Ameriwood, BJM Industries, BreezeWood, Eco-Tech, Eco-Tuff, Enviro-Curb, Everlast, HDPElumber, Leisure Deck, MAXITUF, Orcaboard, Perma-Deck Advantage+, PlasTEAK and Select.

Walsh says HBN gives higher ranking to lumber containing a single plastic because materials composed of only one component are easier to recycle. Some plastic lumber products are 100-percent plastic while others are made from plastic mixed with wood, fiberglass or rubber.

Products made of polyethylene plastic also score high. This type of plastic contains fewer toxic chemicals than other plastics.

“It’s pretty clear that polyethylene has less of an environmental impact and a greater potential of being recycled,” Walsh says. “Using 100-percent post-consumer polyethylene is best for the environment.”

Walsh says these classifications could help shape the plastic-lumber industry. “Currently, the industry is in expansion and consolidation mode. I think this is a great opportunity for the companies to take these factors into account.”

For more on this new system, visit the Healthy Building Network.