Using recycled plastics?

We need to build some furniture to fit out our heads differently. Getting rid of the pump-out toilet and seacocks allows us to make a much more spacious compartment . That is handy, as our Nature’s Head Composting toilet is a bit larger than the Lavac it replaces. So this means we need to line the walls, build basin support and cabinets. Also the headlining needs replacing as it has got very damp from the leaking window.

I want the headlining to be removable so that we can get easy access to the nuts of all deck fittings. I want the furniture to provide good access to the steering system, plumbing and wiring.

We also want it to be low maintenance, easy to clean, reasonably lightweight, light in colour, durable, cheap and easy to work with. We are not interested in impressing anyone with beautiful cabinetry or fancy features. We are interested in insulating the hull and deck for warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer.

There are other furniture building projects too (eg galley, seat backs, seat bases).

Now many of the criteria would be easily met using PVC boards of varying thicknesses and types (potentially including a foam core).

Of course the problem is that PVC is one of the worst materials from an environmental point of view. Not only that but when building with it you are creating tiny “dust” plastic particles whenever you cut, shape or smooth it. When that building work is done in a boatyard it is going to be hard to avoid plastic particles getting into the sea. There are also issues with chemicals being released during the lifetime.

So we have been looking at alternatives. No decisions made yet so thoughts and recommendations are very welcome.

  • plywood (looking at FSC, softwood, exterior grade). Needs coating to avoid rot (paint or epoxy coating). Needs some kind of finish (typically paint or a veneer like Formica). Cheap, widely available.
  • Bamboo. available as a veneer (hard to get) or as plywood (not particularly thin). Needs sealing. Unclear how environmentally good it really is, very expensive and not widely available.
  • Recycled plastic. Limited colour choice (typically black or brown). Still creates micro-plastic particles when being cut/shaped/smoothed. Difficult or impossible to paint. How environmentally friendly is it?
  • Semi recycled plastic. Black plastic sheet core with a white, virgin PVC face. Typically 80% recycled content. Still micro-plastic particles from working on it. How environmentally friendly is it?
  • Foam backed vinyl: existing headlining. Made from PVC, hard to fit and hard to make removable.

I think I’m leaning towards using softwood framing and plywood panels. Coating them with a Bio-epoxy where they will frequently get wet or paint in other places. Painting them where visible.

But I find it very time consuming to weigh up the environmental impact of these materials and so am not left feeling very confident in my choices.

What do you think? Any comparison tools available?

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