What Is The Most Environmentally Friendly Decking Material?

What Is The Most Environmentally Friendly Decking Material?

Check out the best eco–friendly material on the market to use for your garden decking. 

What Is The Most Environmentally Friendly Decking Material?

Whether it’s for an area outside your back door for dining, a simple pathway to the garage or an area around your hot tub, decking gives additional outdoor floor space, whilst being cheaper and more cost-effective than laying a patio.

Its also a large and growing market, which is estimated to Reach $6.5 Billion globally by 2026. And as this market grows so does the availability of more sustainable and eco-friendly decking materials as companies respond to government policies and consumer demand to reduce their carbon footprint.

So what is the most environmentally friendly decking material on the market?

The most eco-friendly decking material is recycled Plastic Decking (Eco Plastic Wood Decking) which is made from a range of used mixed plastics; and Composite Decking which is made from recycled plastic and wood fibres, sourced from industrial and consumer waste.

However, there are a couple more decking materials that you may want to consider such as wood or PVC which I will discuss, along with eco and composite decking in more detail in the article.


  1. Wooden Decking
  2. PVC Decking
  3. Recycled Plastic Decking/ Eco Plastic Wood Decking
  4. Composite Decking
  5. Key takeaways

1. Wooden Decking

For years the standard material considered for decking was wooden planks. Wood as a natural product tends to suggest that this would be the most eco-friendly option for your garden.   “It’s natural”, I hear you cry, “How can it not be environmentally friendly?”  

From one side of the eco-friendly perspective, it’s a great product. It’s natural, recyclable and up-cyclable at the end of its life span, but is there a thorn in its side?

The process of deforestation and the processes involved to take this from tree to decking plank have not always been as environmentally friendly as we would believe.

The distribution of wood for decking production contributes to the polluting emissions, as tonnes of forest wood is transported globally. This is before we factor in the carbon loss and the changes to climate and environment from uprooting all the trees required to supply this growing market.

If we factor in the years it takes for trees to grow, this renewable resource becomes less of a sustainable material due to their slow-growing nature and their inability to grow in great density.

As a natural product if left untreated, the wood will “weather”, will absorb moisture, it may splinter, warp or crack, become a slip hazard, and slowly rot.  To preserve this material, wooden decking needs regular maintenance.

With an estimated life span of approximately 10 years, if treated and maintained regularly, wooden decking would need to be replaced again and again. Making it less eco-friendly than first thought.

Types of wooden decking

But what if you did want wooden decking, what are your options, and can they be eco-friendly?

Green treated decking

If you decide to go for the cheaper Pressure Treated Wood, sometimes known as Green treated decking materials, it is permeated with chemicals that contain insecticides and prevent rot. However, these chemicals can be toxic to the environment. 

Add to this the regular application of sealants, stains, or paints to maintain your new decking and this adds up to additional toxic chemicals leaching into the environment.

Cedarwood/Softwood decking

Cedar Wood or Softwood Decking is of higher quality than the pressure treated and contains natural tannins making it more resistant to decay, insect infestation and rot but still requires regular maintenance.

Hardwood decking

The rarest and most expensive wood decking is made from Hardwoods, these are the slowest growing and the least sustainable decking material. 

Hardwoods have a denser composition and are more resistant to infestation and rot.  Although still requiring regular maintenance, the wood contains the most natural tannins.

You can find wooden decking on Amazon here

2. Plastic – Polyvinyl Chloride Decking (PVC)

From the natural to the synthetic.  Plastic or PVC decking has been manufactured for over 20 years and there have been vast improvements to the process, formulation, and aesthetics of this product. 

Originally it was composed primarily of 100% synthetic materials, a synthetic plastic polymer. This produced a high strength thermoplastic material, moulded, and formed into planks. 

These were able to be produced in a variety of colours and being lightweight was easy to be manoeuvred and installed on site.

The planks required no further chemicals or preservatives, paints, or sealants to give a maintenance-free flooring surface. The strength of the material gave a reduced risk of these boards splitting or warping and once installed they provide a slip-resistant, maintenance-free decking surface with a good life span.  

However, the planks were manufactured using the least number of recycled materials and at the end of their life were only disposable by incineration or in landfills.

Indeed, the older synthetic material seems incapable of rotting and is the least biodegradable.

As a by-product of its production and disposal, there is some debate over the levels of toxic chlorine-based chemicals that are emitted, making some PVC decking the least environmentally friendly of products on the market.

With the advent of more sustainability, companies are improving their Eco-friendly deck materials, incorporating more recycled materials into the mix.


3. Recycled Plastic Decking / Eco Plastic Wood Decking

A British Company, Kedel Ltd has designed and manufactured a plastic decking that is environmentally friendly using one of the most sustainable decking materials available – Recycled Plastic!

The boards are made up from recycled CD cases and old plastic coat hangers, or from mixed plastics, like old buckets and paint trays.  Not only does this product keep the waste out of the landfill but at the end of its long life, this product is fully recyclable making it eco-friendly and giving it a low carbon footprint.

With a long-life span and no additional chemicals or preservatives required to maintain this decking, it is advertised to last at least 5 times longer than treated wood, reducing the need for replacing as regularly.

The product is advertised to be water, frost, mould, and insect-proof and as such is much less likely to splinter, warp or crack.  With a high content of recycled materials, long life span and is fully recyclable means this PVC decking is very eco-friendly.

4. Composite Decking

Probably the biggest rival on the market to recycled plastic decking is Composite Decking. With several companies producing these decking boards worldwide they are now becoming market leaders.

Composite decking is manufactured predominately from recycled plastic with the addition of wood fibres sourced from industrial and consumer waste. This aids the reduction of landfills and increases the circular economy making composite decking eco friendly.

Composite boards are produced from recycled wood chippings added to Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), which is a thermoplastic derived from petroleum used mainly in plastic bags, recycled squeezy bottles, plastic wrapping, and bags. 

Composite boards are also made from rice hulls and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), which is thermoplastic derived from petroleum and used for milk cartons, shampoo bottles, cutting boards and pipes.

This technology effectively uses up to 95% recycled materials with no impact on performance.  The decking stands up well to environmental conditions and does not require any additional toxic chemicals or preservatives for maintenance.

The average lifespan of composite decking is thought to be between 25 – 30 years, so again another long-lasting product.

You can find Composite Decking on Amazon here

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Key Takeaways

When looking to purchase new decking, it is important to consider many factors than just the material the decking is made from. As a natural product, wood may not be the best eco-friendly fit for you when you factor in the logistics of where the wood comes from and the regular maintenance required.

Instead, it may be worth researching the companies behind the composite boards and checking out their eco-friendly credentials.

Companies such as Trex in the US are proud of their composite products as they are made from 95% recycled plastic content, repurposing 400,000 tons of plastic film and reclaimed sawdust annually. 

Whilst in the UK, Neotimber responsibly source recycled products and combine them to produce a sustainable base material for their environmentally friendly composite decking boards.  They also have strict waste management controls within their manufacturing process and ISO14001 (environmental certification) for Environmental Management.

If you do go down the wooden decking route, ensure it carries the FSC stamp and be prepared for the maintenance and upkeep to ensure your decking lasts as long as possible.

There is more to a product being eco-friendly than just the materials it’s made from and perhaps we do need to look a little further and not just see the wood for the trees.