Wood plastic composites (WPC) are a new material group that presently is developing dynamically worldwide with large growth rates. WPC are thermoplastically processible composites made from the renewable resource wood, mostly synthetic plastics and additives. A typical WPC product for example is an extruded profile for a veranda decking, consisting of 70% wood flour, 25% polyethylene or polypropylene and 5% additives such as bonding agents, UV protection additives and colour pigments.
A generally accepted German term could not be established so far. The literal translation of WPC is: Holz-Kunststoff-Verbundwerkstoffe.
North America has a leading position in the field of WPC production and use, in 2005 about 700,000 tons were sold on the market here.
The most important sales market in North America is the decking sector, i.e. deckings for exterior applications such as verandas, terraces or exterior staircases, where WPC are mainly replacing boiler pressure-impregnated real wood. The annual growth rates are considerable, the 1 million tons mark should be exceeded soon. With amazement, the classic wood and plastics industry watches a new material group grow that mainly consists of the renewable resource wood.
While there are detailed market studies available for North America, the data situation for the next important WPC markets Asia and Europe is rather meagre. In Europe, experts estimate the current WPC production at about 30,000 t/year.
The study on hand for the first time provides detailed facts on the German WPC market. Against the background of the present dynamics, however, this can only be a first interim result, a snapshot. The study contains statements on the market volume, the most important applications, manufacturers and actors.
Companies from all industries that are using wood or plastics as material, should take this potential into consideration. Interesting perspectives open up also for the German mechanical engineering sector and the manufacturers of additives. From the marketing especially of by-products of chip-removing processes such as in saw mills, in the planer industry and processing of solid wood, an additional value added for the production of WPC arises for the wood industry.
It doesn`t happen every day that a new low cost and versatile mass material appears on the market. From our point of view, it constitutes a challenge to accompany, ensure and accelerate the market introduction and establishment of WPC in an appropriate way by standardisation, quality management, practical research, politicallegal framework conditions and cooperation with the actors (formation of an association).