Life Cycle Assessment and Material Efficiency

Life cycle analysis (LCA) looks at every aspect from the raw material to the finished product and can include installation and operation along with end of life aspects such as recycling. 

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) rating tool and Green Build Council of Australia (GBCA) Green Star tool use LCA as key methodology for their rating systems. LCA comparisons between plastics and alternative pipe materials repeatedly show that plastics pipe systems are consistently among the best performers. Peer reviewed studies completed in Australia and Europe looking at the life cycle of drainage and pressure pipes found plastics were by far the best performers.

LCA work conducted by PIPA with Edge Environment for Australian pipe systems has confirmed that material production is responsible for the majority of impacts over the life cycle of a pipe system. New technologies in plastic pipe manufacturing are resulting in significant material savings and environmental improvements in the industry. Examples of innovation and improvements include:

  • Structured wall construction of non-pressure pipes allows for a foam core inner with increased use of recyclate and 20-30% material savings.
  • Oriented PVC (PVC-O) pipe is widely deployed in Australia and uses less than half the material to achieve the same pressure capability as comparable standard unplasticied PVC pipe – less material means less embodied energy and environmental impacts.
  • Modified PVC (PVC-M) pipe uses an impact modifier to increase ductility and enhances toughness enabling PVC-M to be manufactured with a thinner wall with subsequent material savings and improved hydraulic properties.
  • The commitment to continuous improvement is demonstrated through ongoing engagement with the GBCA and participation in the development Best Environmental Practice (BEP) requirements for PVC pipe.