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PlasTEAK Plastic Lumber

PlasTEAK is made with 100% post-consumer recycled HDPE in a paraffin base… Read more
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  • Using materials recovered from the waste stream typically results in less waste, pollution, and energy use than using virgin materials. From an environmental standpoint, post-consumer is typically considered preferable to pre-consumer recycled content because post-consumer recycled materials are more likely to have been diverted from landfills.

    In some cases, we consider products with recycled content green but with some caveats regarding where they should be used. For example, rubber flooring made from recycled automobile tires should not be used in most fully enclosed indoor spaces due to the likelihood of VOC emissions.

    Recycling can have downsides. For example, some studies show that curbside collection programs and some recycling processes use more energy than they save. Closed-loop recycling is generally preferable to “down-cycling,” in which a lower-grade material is produced—but due to contamination of waste streams and the difficulty of extracting high-value ingredients, down-cycling may be as good as it gets. At times recycling can re-introduce hazardous components. Some products, like copper and aluminum, include a high level of recycled content as a matter of course—which we applaud, but don’t consider justification for listing in GreenSpec. As more complete life-cycle information on recycled materials and processes becomes available, we use that to increase our scrutiny of recycled products.

  • These products are environmentally attractive because they need to be replaced less frequently or their maintenance has very low impact, both of which can reduce costs as well as environmental impact.
    Robust answers on typical service life of products can be hard to come by, however. In GreenSpec we reserve this criterion for products where the material is clearly more durable than alternatives, such as an exceptionally traffic-resistant polyurethane floor finish. We refer to standardized tests for durability when they are available and appropriate.
    We also consider “appropriate durability”: long life is more important in a building envelope than in interior finish materials that will be replaced for aesthetic reasons. Here, reduced maintenance can be particularly important. An example is resilient flooring that doesn’t require regular waxing: an unnecessary use of resources and a health hazard.

Brent Ehrlich
Products Editor

PlasTEAK is made with 100% post-consumer recycled HDPE in a paraffin base. The boards become more slip-resistant when wet. Stock material includes solid (molded) and hollow (extruded) dimension lumber in a variety of sizes and colors. Trim and sheet goods are also available. Landscape timbers of 6 x 6 x 8' have a structural ribbed design that allows them to weigh less than half as much as wood timbers while maintaining strength. Landscape timbers have pre-molded holes for rebar reinforcement to facilitate installation.

Most of the plastic decking products listed in GreenSpec contain at least 90% recycled plastic, 50%–100% of which is post-consumer material. In 2003, the EPA estimated that 26.7 million tons of the municipal U.S. solid waste stream was plastics. Just 1.4 million tons of it was recycled; the rest went to landfills, where it occupies about 25% of the overall landfill space.

Plastic lumber makes good use of recycled plastic and is an effective replacement for pressure-treated lumber, protecting timber resources and preventing the use of chemical preservative treatments. Plastic lumber won’t rot, absorb water, splinter, or crack; it’s also resilient to shock, making it an extremely durable component in exterior and marine applications. It can accept most types of fasteners and is workable with standard saws and carbide blades.

Plastic lumber usually isn’t a suitable replacement for load-bearing structural components, however. The physical characteristics of plastic polymers, while durable, don’t provide the rigidity necessary for primary structural support. Some companies have addressed this weakness by reinforcing their products with fiberglass or steel. In addition, plastic lumber experiences greater rates of thermal expansion and contraction, which can give rise to problems in certain applications.

Landscape timbers provide an appropriate use of low-grade, commingled recycled plastics that little else can be produced from. Most products listed here consist of more than 50% post-consumer recycled HDPE or LDPE, with several approaching 100%. Lighter-weight hollow extrusions require less energy for shipping. Many manufacturers of recycled plastic lumber also produce landscape timbers.

LEED Credits

MRc4: Recycled Content

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