The debate rages on regarding recycled plastic commercial play systems versus metal play systems. With metal play systems, you have the opportunity to create shapes such as angled and curved posts and overhanging components. Contrarily, commercial recycled plastic systems are more linear, as the material comes in nominal lumber sizes.
The manufacturers of metal structures have developed two lines: the first is a true commercial system using large, 5″ OD metal posts. The second is a small step above a residential play system. It has 3½” metal posts, light duty components, and generally, a smaller profile. The reason for the smaller post system is simple: cost. The 3½” metal play system is cheap.
But what about the green option? Recycled plastic comes from ground up post consumer plastic milk containers. It takes ten one-gallon milk containers to manufacture one pound of recycled plastic.
A system that weighs 3,500 pounds will take 35,000 used milk containers out of our waste stream. The recycled plastic, which is manufactured in the United States, is mixed in vats and extruded or poured into molds.
Steel, for the most part, is also recycled from scrap steel mixed with new iron. As far as a carbon footprint, steel has to be ground down, melted, and poured into ingots in foundries. The ingot is melted in furnaces again, in the mills that produce the posts, flat steel, and angle steel.
If you were to complete a commercial playground installation along the coast in California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, or anywhere that borders an ocean or gulf, you would want recycled plastic as opposed to steel. No matter how the steel is treated, it will eventually rust. All steel containing iron will rust.
We have completed many installations right on the beach in the sand. Designing a beach system removes all steel climbing components and replaces them with recycled plastic and new HDPE plastic climbers and access components. When the commercial playground systems are designed in such a manner, the only steel is the stainless steel security lags and hardware.
The new recycled plastic contains UV inhibitors that will keep the plastic structural and looking great for many years. Think about digging a hole, tossing in a hunk of plastic and covering it. Dig that back up in twenty years and you will have the a hunk of dirty plastic. Do that with steel and you will have a pile of rust.
Will a commercial playground made from recycled plastic last longer than steel? Yes, it’s common sense. If you want to build a commercial playground along the Eastern Sea Board, California coast, or anywhere that has a salt water spray, use recycled plastic.