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Wood-plastic composites still growing, but formulations changing (March 18, 2005)

There is a definite interest in hybrid filler systems among players in the wood-plastic composites industry, report...


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March 18, 2005 by Canadian Plastics

There is a definite interest in hybrid filler systems among players in the wood-plastic composites industry, reports market analyst James Morton. Hybrid filler systems include both organic fillers, such as wood fibres or agricultural fibres, and inorganic fillers, such as talc and calcium carbonate. Morton, a senior partner with Principia Partners, presented his outlook on the use of performance fillers in thermoplastic composites at a one-day Minitech organized by the Ontario Section of the Society of Plastics Engineers.
The event, called Extrusion of Thermoplastic Composites, took place March 17 in Mississauga, ON. Speakers emphasized that while wood-plastic composites (WPC) remain popular, research into other fillers for extruded thermoplastics is promising.
"We are seeing growing industry use of hybrid concepts (combining organic and inorganic fillers) to bring in desirable properties," says Morton. "Hybrids are playing out rapidly."
Looking ahead, Morton predicts that fencing is "going to be a big hit" for the WPC industry, and that roofing applications are also gaining attention. Citing Principia’s most recent review of the composite decking industry, he states that some producers had a very good year last year, with growth of about 40% in some cases.
True to forecasts, the WPC segment has experienced average growth of more than 25% per year since 1998.
Michael Burgoyne, a Canadian materials specialist who also follows the WPC industry, told conference attendees he sees evidence that polypropylene is displacing polyethylene for some outdoor WPC applications.
Issues on the horizon for the WPC industry include demands for flame retardant and anti-microbial properties. Morton states that these will gain in importance as WPCs move into roofing and siding, as well as interior applications.