As we become more aware of our impact on the environment, it has grown increasingly critical to use environmentally friendly construction materials. Wood and wood-plastic composites (WPC) have long been popular materials for decking, but today’s market is replacing them with even more durable and eco-friendly recycled plastic “lumber” or wood alternatives. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) and fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) composites are two of the most common types of plastic lumber that are available today.
The following guide summarizes the characteristics of HDPE and FRP composite lumber to help you select the ideal material for your deck.
Recycled Plastic Lumber
Wood-based materials have fallen out of favor with consumers for a variety of reasons:
- Wood and WPC composites are often produced using materials procured through unsustainable logging practices.
- They also degrade and decay when exposed to the sun, wind, moisture, and foot traffic.
- They are expensive to maintain and replace.
- Chemicals that are used to weatherproof wood can leach into the ground and water, polluting the environment.
Between the short life span, expense, and ecological impact of wood-based lumber, it is no surprise companies are developing more durable and sustainable materials.
Recycled plastic “lumber” offers a low-maintenance, sturdy, and environmentally friendly wood alternative for construction. Manufacturers repurpose consumer plastics into a strong, durable material that can withstand exposure to even harsh outdoor environments. These materials are commonly used in marine, industrial, agricultural, and consumer-focused applications instead of wood or wood-plastic composites.
HDPE Lumber vs. Fiber-Reinforced Plastic Composite Lumber
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) and fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) composites are two of the most common plastic-based lumber alternatives available today. Both materials are manufactured using recycled plastics, which makes them more sustainable and less expensive than wood. HDPE and FRP also feature enhanced durability compared to traditional lumber.
However, even though HDPE and FRP have many similarities, they also exhibit a few significant distinctions.
What Is HDPE?
HDPE is one of the most popular plastic materials in the world. It is a thermoplastic polymer made of ethylene, which is derived from petroleum. The ethylene monomers in HDPE are strictly aligned with very little branching, which means the material is strong and rigid. HDPE is opaque, resistant to chemicals, and capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 120 °C/248 °F.
. Pros and Cons of Using HDPE
HDPE is valued for its lightweight strength and hardness. It is an excellent barrier against moisture, corrosion, rot, and insects, and it won’t leach chemicals into the surrounding environment. The HDPE manufacturing process does not produce harmful emissions.
Although HDPE is strong, it has a tendency to expand or contract with changing temperatures. It also will degrade when exposed to UV radiation for long periods of time, resulting in unsightly cracks and splitting that could make the surface unsafe for walking. Since there are no fibers incorporated in the HDPE structure, it lacks the structural stability of FRP composites like Miura Board. The surface of HDPE board is also impervious to paint, coatings, and adhesives, so it is difficult to brand or customize HDPE lumber to meet certain functional and aesthetic needs. This is a significant factor for businesses and homeowners who want to attach abrasive safety strips to their outdoor decking or deviate from standard color options.
. Common HDPE Applications
HDPE is commonly used for containers such as plastic bottles, milk jugs, and recycled plastic bags. Recycled HDPE is also used for consumer goods such as crates and buckets, plastic furniture, HDPE playground equipment, office supplies, and, of course, construction decking. Overall, HDPE is an adequate choice for many applications that occur indoors or in shaded areas that don’t need to be painted or customized.
What Is FRP Composite Lumber?
Fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) is a polymer matrix made up of resin and various strengthening fibers, such as basalt, carbon, glass, aramid, and/or asbestos. Miura Board™ is a type of FRP that uses commingled recycled plastics on a recycled carpet backing. The fibers used to strengthen the thermoplastic resin include nylon and polyester, which are also typically derived from recycled carpet. As a result, Miura Board™ is composed entirely of recycled materials and has zero wood content. The resultant composite lumber is fully recyclable once it has reached the end of its service life.
. Pros and Cons of Using FRP Composite Miura Board™
FRP composites such as Miura Board™ feature all the benefits of HDPE without the disadvantages. Miura Board™ can be painted, coated, power washed, and even welded, and adhesives stick easily to the surface. Although the Miura Board™ standard is slate-gray, the color can be customized pre- and post-production.
Because of its flexibility and resistance to UV exposure, FRP typically has a longer service life and requires less maintenance than HDPE, which also makes it more cost-effective long-term.
. Common FRP Composite and Miura Board™ Applications
FRP composites such as Miura Board™ are valued for their lightweight strength, structural integrity, and corrosion-resistance, all of which make them ideal for marine, industrial, and commercial applications. FRP can be used to build decks, platforms, siding, and ground protection mats, just to name a few examples.
Contact Miura Board for Your Recycled Plastic Composite Needs!
Our 100% recycled Miura Board™ products have been widely used across Brazil and Argentina for more than 10 years and are perfectly suited for outdoor decking. At Miura Board, we are dedicated to providing top-quality, environmentally friendly products for customers around the world to suit every type of construction project. To learn more about recycled wood alternatives, contact us today or request a quote.