Which is More Ecological: Wood or Plastic?

. 6 min read
Which is More Ecological: Wood or Plastic?

The ecological counterpart of daily used materials took the limelight after the threat of an intense rise in pollution. Now people across the globe are aware of pollution and its adverse effects on mankind and nature.

Around 3% of global plastic waste enters the ocean through rivers and other man-made outlets. The quantity of plastic in the surface water is estimated to be in the range of 10,000s to 100,000s tonnes.

So, the question here arises is which is more sustainable and ecological material to use. Most of us use plastic and wood the most in our day to day life.

However, people are still not aware of the pros and cons of wood or plastic. Here in this piece, you will find everything about plastic and wood.

Plastic vs Wood: Comparison

Material sourcing

Wood is a natural resource that is sourced from trees. It lies under renewable resources and is being used since the inception of mankind. Many trees are purposely grown to extract timber for production and development.

On the contrary, plastic is an artificial material made from fossil fuel feedstock. It comprises some harmful materials and releases hazardous gases while burning.


Wood might have an upper hand in various environmental parameters like carbon footprint and energy consumption. Wood is more energy-efficient than plastic and metal. The majority of the energy utilised in timber production comes from drying the lumber.

Metal, concrete, and plastic need a significant amount of energy from fossil fuels for production.


Wood comprises cellulose fibres that make it strong and heavier than plastic. The transportation of wood made material is expensive and requires a lot of energy and effort.

Whereas plastic is made up of polymers that make it feather weighted. The transportation of plastic made materials is simpler compared to metal and wood.


The ecological and economic impact of the U value of lumber and plastic is a subject of discussion. People across the globe produce 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, and 50% of the plastic consumption is for single-use.

25% of the global population relies on wood or forest for their livelihood and consumption.

Recycling and waste management

Wood or timber is completely used by the timber mills. The outer covering or bark is utilised to make decorative pieces. First cuts are kept for use in engineered wood alternatives. The board ends are cut and they are traded as hobby woods. Sawdust is utilised for storing and animal bedding. Scrap wood is also used to keep the machines working in some mills.

Plastic can be recycled but only a few plastic alternatives can be reused. Only 9% of the world's plastic consumption gets recycled and the rest 91% stays on the planet.


The burning of wood emits a regulatory amount of CO2. Whereas burning of plastic emits furans, mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls that are dangerous for wildlife as well as humans.

Ocean pollution is also linked to plastic as 3% of the plastic production globally gets deposited in the ocean water. Such a high amount of plastic disposition poses life warning threats to marine life.

Effect on mankind

Plastic has more hazardous impacts on humans, wood is an organic source that is safe for kids as well as adults. Inhaling micro-plastics in our daily lives are closely related to plastic furniture and fabrics.

Wood emits CO2 during energy production and is easily consumed by the trees. This makes it safe for mankind.

Impact on Environment and Wildlife

100,000 marine mammals die every year due to plastic consumption. Species like whales, dolphins, seals, and porpoises are getting affected as they consume tonnes of plastic. Plastic has significant negative impacts on the environment than timber.

Wood is a biodegradable substance and gets decomposed in water. So, it poses less threat to marine life.

Also read: Plastic Bottle Manufacturers In India

Stability and Durability

Both wood and plastic are highly durable. As plastic is made up of polymers that are sourced from fossil fuels. Plastic is a non-biodegradable substance, it can break but cannot be recycled.

Whereas a hardwood can withstand a whole century and can be reused and recycled if broken.


Plastic and wood both are budget-friendly and inexpensive. However, in some byproducts, the price range varies. For example- plastic pallets are expensive than wooden pallets and plastic furniture is cheaper compared to wooden furniture.

Both these materials are economical depending on the usage. Most people go for plastic for its low costing.

What is more ecological Wood or Plastic?

According to a U.N agency, buying furniture made up of wood requires less energy and can help to cut carbon emissions. Wood is known to store carbon for a longer period and is more energy-efficient than metal and plastic. Here are some parameters to decide which one is more eco-friendly.

Carbon footprint

Carbon footprint is used to measure the impact of CO2 released during an activity. By knowing the carbon footprint of a material one can calculate the amount of carbon-di-oxide released in the atmosphere.

The carbon footprint of plastic or polythene is around 6kg CO2 per kg plastic. Recycling, composting, and dumping of plastic also release a high amount of carbon in the air.

However, wood comprises 50% of carbon and is widely used in building houses as it stores carbon and cuts a significant amount of carbon emission.


Materials that can be recycled without any chemical secretion are predicted as safe. Plastics emit many harmful gases while recycling whereas wood is safe to use and reuse. Hardwood, Solid softwood, untreated wooden planks, and packaged wood is good for recycling. These materials emit low CO2 and are safe for longer usage. Plastic furniture releases plastic microfibres in the air that lowers the air quality and is dangerous to inhale.

Pros and Cons of using Plastic and Wood?

Advantages of using Plastic

Convenient to use

Plastic is a convenient material to use, as it is light-weighted which makes it ideal for packaging and bringing products from the store.


Plastics are inexpensive compared to other packaging materials, this is the reason organisations use synthetic fibres to pack products.


Plastics are durable and can withstand tough climatic factors. Plastics continue to resist rain, sun, and humidity to enter the product keeping it fresh and ready to use.

Disadvantages of using Plastic

Leads to Pollution

The biggest disadvantage of plastic is that it contributes to water and air pollution. Most of the countries have a poor waste management system that makes it more dangerous for wildlife and humans. Terrestrial and aquatic creatures consume tonnes of plastic and peak premature death.

Advantages of using wood

Carbon Positive

Wood is a greenhouse positive material with a lower environmental impact than plastic and metal. It helps in cutting down carbon emissions in the long run as wood is best for carbon-storing.

Requires low energy production

The method of timber generation requires less fossil fuel energy compared to plastic and material. Using one cubic meter of woodcuts 0.75 to one tonne of carbon emission.

Disadvantages of using wood

Swelling and shrinking

Wood is a hygroscopic material and is made up of cellulose fibres that allow it to absorb condensable vapours and loses moisture to air after a certain period.


The plastic found in the surface area of the ocean is a lot less than the amount of input, this missing amount indicates plastic consumption by marine creatures. If this cycle continues most of the marine creatures will be on the verge of extinction.

Wood emits lower carbon levels than plastic and is safer to use. However, plastic is more convenient to use because it is light-weighted and keeps the product neat and ready to use.

Also read:

1) Green Business Ideas for Startup Entrepreneurs
2) How to Make Online Business More Eco-Friendly?
3) How to design a business model for sustainable fashion?
4) Do You Consider Yourself to be Eco-Friendly? Let’s Check!

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