The playground decision: Why materials matter

July 23, 2017

Of all the factors decision-makers must consider when planning an organization’s playground, one of the most important is what materials are used in the playground’s structural components.

Playground buyers will encounter bewildering terms, such as “fiber reinforced composite.” Let’s keep it simple. In essence, there are only three basic options to consider: steel, wood and plastic.

Steel and wood are easy to eliminate. Even with regular (and costly!) maintenance, steel playground components will rust and will eventually need replacement, usually within 10 to 15 years. Owners of wooden playgrounds face even more problems—especially mold, rot, and frequent sealing or staining, not to mention the hazards splinters pose for children.

  • Plastic components can be either the solution or another set of problems, depending on the type of plastics and processes used in manufacturing. Here’s what you need to know:
  • The preferred plastic material for playground components is recycled HDPE (high density polyethylene), made mostly from milk jugs.
  • HDPE is sustainable, rugged, durable, and adaptable for a variety of commercial applications. It can be melted and reformed.
  • Many companies claim to make plastic lumber from recycled HDPE. Unless properly formulated, even HDPE can crack and split. (EcoPlay field reps see this often with playgrounds we are replacing.)
  • HDPE plastic lumber can itself be recycled as part of a “closed loop” of sustainability.

EcoPlay plastic lumber is based on a proprietary formula and is molded piece by piece. Unlike other HDPE, fiber-reinforced composite, and composite plastics used to make playground equipment, EcoPlay plastic lumber combines two attributes that result in extraordinary strength and durability:

  • Made from 95% HDPE and a naturally occurring mineral, it has outstanding chemical, moisture, and environmental stress crack resistance. We don’t comingle HDPE with non-HDPE plastics, fiber glass, or fillers that will degrade tensile and compressive strengths.
  • Our proprietary formula creates an ultra-dense, yet non-brittle outer “shell” encasing each piece. This means EcoPlay plastic lumber provides extraordinary structural properties and won’t rot, split, crack, chip, or fade, even after long exposure to harsh weather conditions.

Thanks to our proprietary EcoPlay material and processes, EcoPlay Playgrounds stands behind the structures we manufacture with a 50-year warranty.  

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