Plastic pipes are used almost exclusively in modern homes for plumbing, electrical and communications systems but their use goes far beyond the home.
Plastics pipes are the smart material of choice:
Unlike other materials plastics do not deteriorate threatening the ability to provide safe drinking water.
Exhibit excellent resistance to a wide range of chemical reagents and disinfectant chemicals.
Allows water to flow freely reducing failures and blockages in wastewater pipelines.
Cost and time saving.
Longevity means the pipes function more efficiently, reducing maintenance and ongoing work.
A secure system, eliminating water loss effecting the environment.
Due to fewer joints and flexibility they are unlikely to be penetrated and damaged by tree roots.
After it’s intended service life it can be reground and made into new pipes.
Minimising long-term replacement costs – leak proof, long service life, low break rates, flexibility, resistance to degradation and corrosion.
Trenchless installation methods reducing traffic and emissions, reduces business and pedestrian obstruction
Long lengths and flexible, reducing the number of fittings. Once a pipes service life has ended it can become a host pipe for a plastic pipe. If not a host pipe plastic pipes are recyclable and can become new pipe. Recyclate used where applicable.
A 2010 survey of US municipalities showed that plastic pipes were now the predominant pipe of choice in their infrastructure: In response to the question “How much of your system is composed of the various pipe types:”, the following responses were made:
PVC 90 %
HDPE 57 %
“In recent years the water industry has also embraced PE particularly when trenchless installation techniques like directional drilling, pipe cracking, slip and swage lining have led to increased usage in water and wastewater applications.” These allow cost effective installation of pipelines without the need to excavate trenches.”
They provide clean drinking water, recycled water, water for irrigation.
Water, sewerage and drainage water used Australia Wide 2018/2019
(That’s the volume of 24 Sydney Harbours)
Rainfall is collected in storage reservoirs or dams where it can sit for 5 years or more, allowing it to be naturally filtered before being pumped to a drinking water filtration/treatment plant.
At the filtration plant, chlorine is added to disinfect the water and fluoride may also added for dental hygiene.
Once the water has been tested and is clean and ready for use, it is pumped through pipes to homes.
Gas gathering distribution networks as well as protection for electrical distribution systems and communications systems providing crucial community infrastructure.
In Australia gas provides almost as much energy as electricity to Australian homes. “More than 100,000 kilometers of transmission and distribution pipelines deliver natural gas safely and reliably to homes around the country which use the gas for heating their houses, their hot water and for cooking.”
Polyethylene (PE) pipes were introduced to the gas industry in the late 1960’s, offering corrosion resistance, resistance to the effects of gas constituents, ease of installation and cost-effectiveness.
In the 1980s PE pipe almost completely replaced metallic pipes in certain size and pressure ranges.
In the US “Plastic Pipes are widely used throughout oil and gas gathering applications due to the combination of chemical resistance, flexibility and durability.“
Even wireless and satellite communication systems rely on cables that are under the sea, underground and running between telephone poles. Plastic pipes protect the cables from damage.
Plastic conduit pipes are used as a physical barrier to protect electrical wires efficiently for safety and performance. They are used in exposed locations such as along the surface of the wall, in crawl spaces or underground.
Similarly, communications conduits are used for protection in residential, commercial and industrial applications.
Many thousands of Kms of conduit pipe would be used across Australia each year to install, renovate and upgrade electrical and communications infrastructure.
Plastic pipes provide fixed or mobile systems required to provide water for crops, animals, fruit and vegetable production.
According to a 2021 snapshot by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Australian agriculture accounts for 55% of Australian land use. That’s 427 million hectares excluding timber production.
This water, used to irrigate crops, animals, fruit and vegetable production, is carried from the source to the point of irrigation by pipes and channels.
Plastic pipes are a sealed system, taking sewerage away safely for treatment.
“Plastic pipes have an advantage in leak resistance over other materials. This is because they need fewer joints, as they can be produced, transported and installed in longer lengths. Typically, clay and concrete pipes have 2 or 3 times the number of joints of plastic pipelines.”
The superiority of PVC compared to VC and FRC was reported by Whittle (2003), claiming that the surface roughness and porosity of the latter materials were the main cause of root intrusion through the sealing joints.
Butt or electro-fusion processes used to join PE pipes provide stronger, tighter, more leak proof joints. These welded joints are self-restraining and costly thrust restraints or thrust blocks are not required.
In sewer pipes corrosion can occur because of chemical reactions caused by the biological production of sulphuric acid. Plastic pipe will not corrode, tuberculate or support biological growth. They also offer a high level of chemical resistance to a wide range of substances found in both effluent and contaminated soils, making them the materials of choice in harsh chemical environments
Globally, up to 30% of all piped water is lost through pipe leakages somewhere in a system. The main cause of this is pipe failure. Plastic pipes, whether PVC or PE, are flexible and do not carry the same inherent risk of cracking as metal or concrete alternatives. They are less affected by ground movements and are strong enough to withstand deformation from traffic loading.
Plastic pipes move rainwater and stormwater, protecting water quality and minimising flood risk.