All you need to know about synthetic wood

Ned Browne 22 October 2021

Did you know that plastic can be recycled into synthetic wood? In an effort to reduce waste, companies are turning to this uncanny invention

In the UK each year, we generate 2.2 million metric tonnes of plastic packaging waste.  That’s a lot of plastic! Indeed, according to Greenpeace, the UK produces more plastic waste per person than almost any other country in the world. 

The government claims that half of this waste is recycled, but that figure includes all the plastic waste we send abroad, which isn’t meaningfully monitored once it has left our shores. One way to increase recycling in the UK is to create a market for recycled plastic. And that’s where you can help.

Synthetic wood

Wood plastic composite decking

The quality of recycled plastic products has improved dramatically over the last decade. Synthetic (plastic) wood now looks just like real wood. It’s also far more durable, especially in areas with high moisture. 

Wooden garden decking, for example, will rot and decay over the years. Whereas, decking made from recycled plastic should last a lifetime, with absolutely no maintenance other than cleaning. You can buy recycled plastic railway sleepers too, which are perfect for garden landscaping.

Garden furniture

Outdoor garden patio

Synthetic wood is a great material for garden furniture. That means no more annual sanding and varnishing. With a quick online search, you’ll find picnic tables, benches, chairs and more, in a variety of colours. 

Synthetic wooden planters are available too, as are fence posts and planks to make raised flower beds. The wooden versions of the latter rarely last more than five years.

Building material

The construction industry produces an enormous amount of waste each year. But things are changing. The industry is increasingly incorporating more recycled materials, from recycled aggregates to recycled tyres. Synthetic wood is being used too, in such things as cladding, building lumber and tongue and groove planks.

"Synthetic wood is a great material for garden furniture"

Impervious to rot and frost

For those fortunate enough to live adjacent to the sea, a river or a lake, you can now buy marine and waterway construction products made from recycled synthetic wood.

It will never rot and won’t freeze in the cold winter months, and it has better slip resistance than wood, even when wet.

Buying advice

Recycled plastic

The important thing is to make sure that any synthetic wooden products you buy are made from recycled plastic. To reduce the carbon footprint, ensure the products have been manufactured in the UK and are made from plastic waste generated in the UK. One company that ticks all the boxes is Kedel Limited, who are based in Burnley.  

Lewis Walch, one of the brothers who founded Kedel says, “Myself and two of my brothers thought it would be fun to start a business together and making products out of recycled plastic seemed very ethical and eco-friendly.”

Despite founding the business during a recession, they have had to move four times as the company has grown so fast. Kedel recycles many tonnes of polystyrene waste and has proved so popular it has struggled to keep up with demand in recent years. 

Lewis Walch again, “It feels good to think that we are doing something useful to help future generations deal with the problems created by plastic waste.”

A world without plastic

At some point, hopefully this century, we may well end up living in a world free from plastic and fossil fuels. But that will take time—now is the transition period. So, let’s give our plastic waste a second life. 

And remember, the more synthetic wood we use the fewer trees we chop down, and the less plastic goes into landfill or gets burned in incinerators.

Read more: Why climate activism needs to decolonise

Read more: How to help save bees

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