The global market for wood-plastic composites (WPCs), cellulosic plastics, plastic lumber and natural fiber composites was valued at 2.8 mln metric tons in 2013. This market is expected to increase from nearly 3.1 mln metric tons in 2014 to 5.6 mln metric tons in 2019, at a CAGR of 12.7% from 2014 to 2019, as per BCC Research.
WPCs will benefit from new approaches, such as using weatherable capstock that improves the appearance and durability of the material. Availability of plastic recyclate may be a constraint to growth in the United States. Applications in automotive markets will grow at a fast rate for plastics reinforced with natural fibers as automotive OEMs strive to reduce greenhouse gas emission and take advantage of the lower weight of natural fibers compared to glass fibers. Applications in automotive markets are expected to increase from 0.5 mln metric tons in 2014 to about 1.1 miln metric tons in 2019, at a CAGR of 15% from 2014 to 2019.
Infrastructure will also be an important and rapidly growing market for two reasons: (i) rapid acceleration of infrastructure projects, particularly in China, and (ii) the emergence of new technologies that improve the strength and other properties of wood-plastic composites. - The building products segment is expected to grow from about 2.2 mln metric tons in 2014 to nearly 3.8 mln metric tons in 2019, at a CAGR of 11.6% from 2014 to 2019. "There is growing interest in plastic compounds made with wood and other natural fillers and reinforcements for performance and environmental reasons,"says BCC Research analyst Jason Chen. "In Europe, the market emphasis is on markets such as automotive, where molded wood-plastic composites create a feeling of real wood in cars. Production capacity is growing rapidly in China, primarily targeting the export market"
USA is the largest producer of wood-plastic composites in the world, with over 50% of the global market share. However, China is rapidly catching up with the USA, reaching over 33% of global wood-plastic composites production by 2015 and growing at a much faster rate of 25% pa than the USA, which is growing at only 8% pa. The main uses for wood-plastic composites are primarily for outdoor use, with decking, cladding and park benches comprising the vast majority of applications. There is also an emerging market for a number of indoor uses, such as door frames, trim and furniture.
The European wood-plastic composites market has reached maturity, which shows that this market will be experiencing lower growth rates than those of emerging markets, such as in East Asia, Russia, South America and India. One of the ways in which current players in the market can maintain growth in this market would be to investigate new areas where wood-plastic composites can be applied, such as garden fencing and siding.
The use of bio-plastics in the global wood-plastic composites market currently plays a small role but companies such as Tecnaro are at the forefront of using exclusively bio-based compounds. In the short to medium term the fastest growing wood-plastic composites applications are expected to be decking, fencing and garden furniture, as these products can be created using recycled plastic and primary and secondary wood processing scrap, that will be seen as an effective method of removing these materials from the waste stream in Europe. There are a number of negative issues that can damage the growth in the global wood-plastic composites market, such as the negative image of recycled products held by many consumers, which will have to be overcome before full growth in this market can be realized.
Wood-plastic composites are materials, which are made up of wood flour or fiber and plastic resins. These composites also contain a certain degree of additives, which foster the integration of the wood and plastic and aid in the manufacturing process. Most wood-plastic composites are manufactured using wood and plastic wastes or recyclates. A minor share of these products is manufactured using virgin wood and plastic materials. Extrusion is largely employed for the manufacturing process, followed by injection moulding. Analysts at Research and Markets forecast the global wood-plastic composites market will grow at a CAGR of 9% over the period 2013-2018
There has been an increase in the demand for PVC-capped decking products in the Global Wood-Plastic Composites market. Capped decking products have protective plastic surfaces that provide resistance to staining, fading, and scratching. While most uncapped decking products provide similar benefits to and are cheaper than capped decking products, they require periodic cleaning for maintenance. Thus, the demand for capped decking products, especially those with PVC caps, is expected to be high during the forecast period. A number of vendors such as Fiberon and CPG International offer these products. According to the report, the increase in the demand for wood-plastic composites from the Housing industry is one of the major drivers. In this industry, the demand for these composites is particularly high for usage in interior decorations and outdoor constructions such as decking, thereby contributing to the market growth. Further, the report states that the low preference for recyclates in products is one of the major challenges. Most products offered by the market vendors are manufactured using recycled material or recyclates rather than virgin materials. Several buyers have concerns about the performance, durability, and quality of recyclates in products and prefer wood-plastic composites manufactured using virgin materials.