Plastic Wood: Technologies, Markets

Published - May 2005| Analyst - Melvin Schlechter| Code - PLS034A
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Report Highlights

  • The North American market for wood- and natural-fiber plastic composites and plastic lumber is estimated at 2.2 billion pounds and, rising at an AAGR (average annual growth rate) of 9.5%, is expected to reach about 3.6 billion pound by 2009.
  • Accepted by consumers for decking, the larger wood-plastic composite (WPC) segment will show excellent growth (9.8% AAGR).
  • The more mature plastic lumber market will continue to grow well, with its leading outlet being fencing.
  • Interior automotive products is the major application for natural fiber composites. These will rise at an AAGR of 9.9% through 2009.
  • PVC and polyethylenes (mostly HDPE) are the dominant resins used.


The term “plastic lumber” (PL) has evolved into a sort of generic name acting as an umbrella for any product used to replace wood products. However, the term represents a wide array of products, including a plastic by itself; one that contains reinforcements such as glass fibers and even mineral fillers, except wood (sometimes called “composites”); and mixtures of resins without reinforcements (also sometimes called “composites”). “Natural fiber-reinforced” plastics refers to some of these products that include the use of wood and vegetable fibers. Plastics containing wood as fillers/reinforcements are called by several names, mostly “woodplastic composites” (WPCs). However, in the trade press and company literature, these products often are called “plastic lumber.” WPCs also can contain mineral fillers, as well.

Regardless of the nomenclature, these product areas are relatively new and have met with success in terms of consumer acceptance. This BCC report examines the markets for WPCs and plastic lumber with the addition of the emerging and related natural fiber composites area along with consistent and meaningful definitions of what constitutes WPCs and plastic lumber


The report contains:


  • Definitions of the products studied
  • An overview of the historical development of plastic lumber, WPCs and natural fiber composite materials used to replace wood
  • Forecasts through 2009 within four major applications: building products, automotive, infrastructure and other consumer/industrial products
  • Further analysis by major components, namely decking, fencing/windows and doors and other
  • Additional analysis by key resins such as polyethylene, PVC and polypropylene within each application and how they are used
  • Detailed discussion of technologies, production, use of additives and required material properties
  • Costs and pricing, marketing and competitive company strategies



Extensive searches were made of the literature including most of the leading trade publications as well as technical and government documents including trade associations. Additional information was gleaned from interviews with many of the leading participants in these three market areas which often resulted in conflicting estimates and opinions, partly due to the lack of consistent definitions.


Research analyst Mel Schlechter has over 30 years in the chemical industry, and specializes in plastics market research. He has been with BCC for over 10 years. Mr. Schlecter holds B.S. degree in chemistry, an M.S. in organic chemistry and an M.B.A. in marketing.

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