Outdoor Decks Made with Recycled Plastic Bags? That’s Right

Girls playing on patio with hula hoops

If you’re thinking of adding a deck to your home’s outdoor space, you can do yourself and the environment a favor by checking out decking made with recycled plastics. This versatile decking lets you beautify your home and close the recycling loop. Recycled plastic decking has really grown in popularity in recent years and now is readily available online and at most major home improvement stores.

Recycled plastic decking typically is made from recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastics, the plastic used in milk jugs and for plastic bags and wraps. You’ve probably seen the collection bins for bags and wraps at many grocery chains and large retailers—and hopefully you’ve pitched in, as well! Once cleaned, the plastics are heated and combined with other materials such as pigments and UV blockers—and even wood fibers to make “composites”—before being molded into items such as decking planks, posts, and spindles.

Recycled plastic decking can combine the often-desired look of wood with the strength and durability of plastics, so it’s an ideal building material for use outdoors. Beyond providing beautiful gathering spaces for barbecues and celebrations, recycled plastic decks offer many practical advantages:

  • Low maintenance: Recycled plastic decking requires very little maintenance; you typically can keep your deck clean simply by sweeping or hosing off dirt and debris, as needed.
  • Long lasting: Recycled plastic decks are extremely durable and resistant to decay and weather damage. Because the color is molded into the material, they don’t require re-painting or re-staining. Plus they resist stains, cracks, splinters, scuffs, mold, mildew, and pesky wood boring insects.
  • DIYfriendly: Some recycled plastic decking includes practical fasteners and hidden decking screws that make installation and repairs easy for handy homeowners.

Beyond good looks and convenience, decks made with recycled plastics can leave a lighter environmental footprint. For example:

  • Recycled plastics: Recycled plastic decking helps give new life to valuable materials and keeps them out of landfills. For example, one major manufacturer states that an average 500-square-foot deck made with their plastic composite decking contains 140,000 recycled plastic bags!
  • Less frequent replacement: Thanks to their durability, recycled plastic decks can last a long time, which helps conserve materials over time.
  • LEED credits: A deck made with recycled plastics might help a home earn points in the Materials and Resources category of the S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, potentially contributing to the total points needed to obtain LEED certification.

And beyond decking, recycled plastic lumber is used to create other outdoor home products, such as planters, stairs, fencing, patio furniture, and more. Just imagine how good you’ll feel leaning back in that recycled plastic Adirondack chair…