Polypipe: The Pros of Plumbing with PlasticNovember 2, 2018
More frequently, and with heightening concern, we are hearing about the negative impacts of plastic. Its damage to our oceans, wildlife and local environments is becoming more apparent, with 5 million tonnes being used annually in the UK. Unfortunately, only around 19% of this is reused or recycled. Although recently, efforts have been made to reduce the amount of plastic we use, and ultimately waste. From small changes such as reusing plastic bags or choosing paper straws, to governmental support to ban single use plastic, every effort is positive. Although diverse and durable, used across many industries, developments are occurring to reduce plastic usage for a greener society.
The impact of plastic on our planet has in many ways inspired people to think of sustainable alternatives. This is particularly important for the construction industry. As the second biggest user of plastic products after packaging, the building sector makes up 23% of the market. So, the reduction of plastic in this industry is critical.
Due to its diverse nature, the use of plastic is widespread. Used for insulation, window frames, pipe work and more, as a material it has countless benefits. Tricky for convincing people to choose an alternative. The Smart Waste 2010 report claims that the best way to reduce the amount to plastic that is wasted is the careful selection of sustainable building materials. By doing so, the risk of a plastic product becoming waste is hugely minimised.
It offers hope that we can be greener and keep the benefits plastic gives us. Technology is continuously advancing and now these plastics can now be recycled and turned into new materials:
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
- ABS (a copolymer of Acrylonitrile, Butadiene and Styrene) polymers
Plastic vs Copper
When it comes to the plumbing industry, the plastic vs copper pipe debate is a well-known one. The Technical University of Berlin conducted a Total Environmental Impact Study on various drinking water pipe systems, including metals and plastics. It considered the cradle-to-grave impact, from sourcing to processing, manufacture, installation and through to life-expectancy. The study showed that polybutylene plastic plumbing products have a low environmental impact, in comparison with alternative piping materials.
Due to the performance nature of plumbing and heating systems, Polypipe manufacture their plastic plumbing products from virgin polymers in order to meet safety and performance standards. However, Polypipe is still able to honour its commitment to decreasing wastage and creating a greener supply chain.
For example, those plastic plumbing systems, alongside other types of plastics, are recycled and made into products which service other parts of the construction industry, such as below ground drainage inspection products.
Recycling plastics to create new piping means plumbers today can reap the benefits of plastic fittings, whilst also being environmentally responsible. Polypipe have been aiding this by creating strong, durable, and sustainable piping at all stages of the supply chain.
The Polypipe Process
By making efforts to reduce plastic wastage, whilst still producing a market leading plumbing product, Polypipe keep quality and sustainability at the forefront of their manufacturing process. Polypipe have even invested in a sustainable product centre, to maximise the use of recycled materials, and minimise carbon usage.
Where possible, Polypipe’s products are made from recycled household plastics, which undergo an intense process of quality control, cleaning and separation. Polyethylene bottles first need to be cleaned of impurities. Also, High Density Polyethylene (one of the listed recyclable plastics) is separated and shredded into small flakes. These flakes are filtered to increase the purity of the plastic that will be remoulded into a Polypipe.
Next, carbon black and antioxidant stabiliser are added to the three compounding lines. The flakes are then again filtered – every stage is checked to ensure the plastic is of the highest quality. This recycled plastic is then transformed into plastic pipes. This manufacturing process not only reuses plastic that would otherwise become waste, but also reduces Polypipe’s carbon footprint as a manufacturer. In 2017, Polypipe recycled over 44,000 tonnes of plastic and saved 40,000 tonnes of carbon.
Positive for Plumbers
Expected to last longer than fifty years, these pipes are durable and hold many advantages beyond their sustainable creation.
Weighing far less than copper and concrete, plastic pipes are far easier to manufacture and transport, again, reducing carbon emissions. Being lightweight additionally simplifies installation and handling, saving energy overall. Plastic is also highly resistant to corrosion making it incredibly reliable, so won’t need replacing any time soon!
When installing, plastic piping takes much less manpower. Simple to cut, with no welding or soldering required, time and effort is reduced. Also, push-fit joints and the flexible nature of the piping shortens installation time. The durable nature of plastic also means less risk of leaking and limescale build up.
With a resistance to freezing and a high impact resistance, there is less risk of the pipes bursting or being damaged. When compared with copper, plastic has a low scrap value, and so reduces the risk theft. This is key for plumbers who keep tools or materials in their vans and have concerns of being broken into. By opting for products that have been responsibly manufactured, plumbers and installers today can be greener and reduce their individual wastage, whilst still using a high-quality product.
Plastic as a material has a lot of bad press, and it is undeniably a concern for the future. However, by taking steps to reuse what we already have, Polypipe as suppliers are making a positive impact in a high plastic wastage industry.