I know a lot of people who really love wood. I sometimes think that their affection for wood is borderline unnatural. But hey, whatever works for them. They are the same kind of people that probably wouldn’t be too impressed with plastic lumber. Yes, plastic lumber is a real thing. Now that you know that, how do you feel about it?
For reasons I still have not figured out, the mere mention of plastic incites negative emotions in some people. They think of plastic as the worst thing humanity ever invented. I can think of many things that are a lot worse. That aside, some people just cannot appreciate anything good about plastic. It is all bad to them. To each their own, right?
A Wood-Like Alternative to Trees
Let us move beyond the philosophical questions and get to the actual substance of the matter. Plastic lumber is in no way, shape, or form a wood product. It is a wood-like alternative to traditional tree-based lumber. But its similarities to natural lumber are aesthetic only. That could be good or bad depending on your personal preference.
Plastic lumber can essentially take the place of natural lumber in nearly any application. In theory, it could be used to build houses and commercial buildings. To date though, it is mostly confined to applications like furniture, public benches, fences and fence posts, residential decks, etc.
Manufacturers can make plastic lumber in a variety of sizes, shapes, densities, colors, and textures. Some of the products are so realistic that it is hard to tell they are plastic without taking a really close look. Their big advantage is durability. Plastic lumber will last a long time without any extra care. It doesn’t need to be refinished. It doesn’t need to be protected against insects. It is just durable stuff.
How Plastic Lumber Is Made
Plastic lumber can be made from virgin plastic, plastic waste, or a combination of both. You might be interested to know that there is a nonprofit organization in Canada that collects post-consumer plastic waste from waterways and shorelines. The plastic waste is the core of a proprietary product the Foundation calls Legacy Plastic. Legacy Plastic is a key ingredient in making plastic lumber.
Here at home, Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics collects industrial plastic waste recycling and recycles it in seven states. They turn things like plastic pallets and totes into a regrind product manufacturers combine with virgin plastic. The combined plastic pellets are transformed into consumer products through a variety of processes, including injection molding.
Whether a manufacturer relies on Legacy Plastic or purchases regrind from a company like Seraphim, the process for turning the material into plastic lumber is pretty straightforward. Molten plastic is injected into a mold and allowed to harden. That’s really about it. It is straightforward, simple, and pretty darned cheap. However, optimizing this process with a rotary drum dryer can offer additional benefits.
No, It’s Not Wood
I am the kind of guy who would happily use plastic lumber given the opportunity. I would have no problem purchasing furniture made from it. I would welcome the opportunity to install a plastic lumber fence. I just don’t have any hangups about wood or wood alternatives. The same cannot be said for everyone.
No, plastic lumber is not wood. That’s too much for some people whose core principle is natural wood or nothing at all. And that’s okay, by the way. It takes all kinds to make the world go around. The point is that plastic lumber is a real thing. How do you feel about it personally? I think it is a great idea that deserves a lot more attention.