Modern Australian plastic pipes don’t contain any phthalates or heavy metals.
Australian Standards for PVC pipe specifically exclude such additives and worldwide are the only national product standards to do so. All products are independently assessed and certified as part of a rigorous regulatory environment that provides confidence that these products consistently meet all the requirements of the Australian Standard
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) found through their literature review in 2010 the level of dioxin emitted due to production of BEP PVC and its constituents, is much less than that from other sources. There is therefore no rationale for discrimination against PVC pipe on the basis of dioxin emission.
In 2010 the GBCA determined criteria for Best Environmental Practice PVC (BEP PVC), in conjunction with PIPA and the Vinyl Council of Australia covering:
All PIPA members producing PVC pipes and fittings meet these BEP requirements.
Plastic pressure pipes manufactured to Australian Standards are tested to ensure they are safe to carry drinking water.
All plastic pressure pipes in Australia must conform with the relevant Australian Standards. These Australian product standards mandate pipes and fittings meet AS/NZS4020 “Testing of Products for use in contact with Drinking Water” – arguably the most rigorous standard in the world assessing a products suitability for use in contact with drinking water. These tests look for compounds or elements that could be harmful to human health, assess if there is any genetic risk and importantly the potential to cause taste or odour issues.
Safe drinking water is one of the most important requirements for health in society. Most western countries take it for granted but it is a critically managed resource from collection, storage through to distribution. The pipes must provide a watertight system and must not contribute any contamination to the water, maintaining performance throughout the lifetime of the asset.
Water Quality is monitored continuously by all Water Agencies ensuring their pipe networks deliver the highest quality of water.
Plastic pipes have superior chemical resistance and don’t corrode like other pipe materials.
The Australasian Corrosion Association (ACA) using data supplied by The National Water Commission and the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) estimate the aggregated cost of corrosion in the water sector is close to $1 Billion per annum.
The ACA reports there are around 33,000 watermain breaks every year in Australia – that is a break about every 16 minutes. On average 80% are caused by corrosion.
Source: The Australian Corrosion Association Inc. November 2010. Average cost of water pipeline failures in Australia 2008-2009.
“Corrosion is the primary cause of failure” – Steve Folkman.
Steve Folkman from the Utah State University research on the Validation of the long life of PVC pipes concluded “The average age of a failing water main is 47 years. This is unacceptable and unsustainable. Studies on the expected life of PVC pipe from researchers around the world consistently has confirmed a 100+ year benchmark for PVC pipes. These results are based on “dig-up” studies of pipe in use and installed by contractors.”
Source: Corrosion Costs and Preventive Strategies in the United States, No. FHWA-RD-01-156
It is a similar story in the USA. A 2002 report titled “Corrosion Costs and Preventive Strategies in the United States” which was mandated by Congress and released by the Federal Highway Administration states the cost of corrosion to the US Water Industry is $36 Billion annually.
Compared to other pipe materials, plastic pipes have the lowest failure rate for pressure water applications.
CSIRO completed a project with American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AwwaRF) to investigation long term performance of PE pipes in 2005-2007, which highlighted extremely low failure rate in comparison to other materials in use.
Results from a 2011 Utah State University study of 188 utilities, covering 117,603 miles of pipe shows PVC pipes had the lowest failure rate.
Source: Steven Folkman, Water Main Break Rates in the USA and Canada, Utah State University, 2018
Plastic pipes have a long service life and are not discarded as plastic waste.
This was confirmed by the NSW Government audit of Construction and Demolition waste. In one landfill site of 600,000 tonnes of C&D waste less there was somewhere between 1,000-3,000 tonnes of plastic pipe waste- that’s 0.1-0.5%! The reason why is due to their durability and very long service life, typically more than 100 years – making them the perfect choice for building and infrastructure materials. Today, plastic pipes are still in their first life cycle.
Due to the low volume of plastic pipes in the waste streams, our industry is always looking at ways to work collaboratively with waste management companies, major distributors of products and specific suppliers/clients to collect volumes of plastic pipes viable for designated recycling.
It’s no surprise that plastic pipes and fittings are not on that list.
Plastic pipes are not part of the plastic waste pollution breaking down into microplastics in our oceans.
A Norwegian study in 2017 objective was to determine the concentration of microplastics in in drinking water by sampling and analysis of raw water, treated water and tap water from a variety of networks. The study showed: “In the majority of all samples from raw water, treated water, and drinking water from the distribution system analysed, microplastic particles could not be detected”.
The most common source of microplastics is the breaking down of large pieces of plastic debris, generating secondary microplastics.
For export from river catchments in Europe to sea, research5 found the following:
Tests carried out by TEPPFA in 2020 on various types of plastic pressure pipes did not find any microplastics being emitted by the plastic pipes.
Together with DTI8 in Denmark TEPPFA developed a test to flush drinking water through various types of plastic pipes and measure the microplastics found.DTI tested 50 meters drinking water pipes made from PE80, PVC-U, PEX-a, and PErt. Also, a Cu pipe was tested for blind testing purposes.
In September 2020 DTI reported: “Based on the applied method, no levels of microplastics above the detection limit (2µg/l) were found in the samples of the tests PE80, PEX, PErt and PVC-U.”
Besides this TEPPFA test there is no scientific research showing that there is abrasion of the inner walls of plastic drinking water pipes.
TEPPFA measurements on excavated >30-year-old PVC and PP stormwater and sewer pipes showed no wear of the inner walls. The test results confirmed tests done in the past in the Netherlands.
In 2019 TEPPFA organised the excavation of 2 types of 315 mm stormwater pipes in Harlev, Denmark. The 315mm PVC pipe and the PP Ultrapipe OD/ID 315/277 were still in function and had been installed in 1987. The DTI report dated April 2020 concluded that “the wear of the wall thickness is too minuscule to be measured with a normal gauge used for measuring wall thickness. No wear could be detected.”
As PIPA’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility we have taken the pledge committing to Operation Clean Sweep (OCS). PIPA is working with our members who have already taken the pledge and become program partners and those who are working towards playing their role to help prevent pellet loss in Australia.
Everyone in the industry has a role and responsibility to play throughout the whole supply chain. It’s a collective effort, where every little thing counts, and simple efforts allow for effective results.
To help every plastic resin handling operation (manufacturing, transporting, fabricating and installing) implement good housekeeping and pellet containment practices to work towards achieving zero pellet loss.
Australian plastic pipes are made to the most stringent additives standards in the world.
Australian standards commonly specify requirements for additives that are more restrictive than the national standards in most other countries and more restrictive than the commonly used international ISO standards.
The Australian standards do not permit the use of any compounds based on lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), or mercury (Hg). In addition, Australian PVC pipe standards specify requirements of Best Environmental Practice (BEP) PVC. These additional requirements that relate to the material content and the manufacturing processes and associated emissions, were first introduced in Australia and are recognised as the tightest environmental requirements internationally.
Source: Presentation by SA Water to PIPA 2013
Source: Presentation by SA Water to PIPA 2013