Chinese processors, as in many other industries, are fast becoming relevant players in wood-plastic composite decking.
As of 2006, Asia was responsible for about 8 percent of composite decking products on the market worldwide. The majority of the Chinese composite deck makers are small companies using inexpensive extrusion technology and downstream systems, said Tom Brown, sales and marketing director for Cincinnati-based Cincinnati Milacron Extrusion Systems, a division of Milacron Inc.
Typical throughput rates for Chinese extruders are between 400 pounds and 500 pounds per hour, vs. about 2,500 pounds per hour for U.S. manufacturers.
Most Chinese processors are focused on exporting deck board to the United States, Europe and Japan, Brown said in a presentation at the Wood-Plastic and Natural Fiber Composites conference, held Oct. 8-9 in Baltimore.
Common applications for wood composites in China today are for industrial pallets, outdoor furniture, garbage boxes and in automotive uses, Brown said.
``There's an emerging construction market, but it has not really started yet,'' he said.
Most domestic sales for Chinese deck makers are for government beautification projects, he said.
In China, things can change overnight. The country has 1.27 billion residents and the population is growing more than 10 percent per year.
There will be opportunities for North American deck makers to sell their products as China may still have another 20 years of breakneck population growth and development, said Wayne Song, president of Mississauga, Ontario-based Futuresoft Technologies Inc. and chief executive officer of Qinchuan-Future Plastics Machinery Co. Ltd. in Baoji, China.
A lack of forest resources in China will force people to look alternative lumber materials, Song told conference attendees.
About 20 million square feet of new construction is planned to meet the needs of China's fast-growing nation. That market provides more opportunity for composite products than in China's currently popular pallet-making industry, Song said.