Our commitment to the Australian community is simple – we aim to recycle the maximum amount of useable plastic pipe.
While it may seem obvious to our industry, it needs to be remembered that plastics pipe represents a very small proportion of waste going to landfill; a fact confirmed by the NSW Government audit of construction and demolition waste. The reason for this is that plastic pipe in all its forms has a very long service life and is still in its first life cycle as further explained below.
The common plastics pipe systems are readily recycled and are being recycled now. Practically all post industrial waste is recycled and we are also recycling post-consumer pipe waste. For example, in excess of 2,000T of PE pipe was recycled last year. Considering only post-consumer PVC pipe there was over 650T mostly sourced from demolition sites or construction waste recycled by the industry last year. This recycled PVC material is used in an innovative product range where the recyclate is used to manufacture new pipe with the same life and performance expectations as pipe made solely from virgin material. It is good to know that even when that long service life has been achieved, it can be recycled again back into pipe with exactly the same performance and life expectancy as the original pipe.
The common plastics used for pipe production like PVC and PE are thermoplastics and readily reprocessed. Scrap generated during manufacture is reground and fed back into the manufacturing process. As noted above, the industry is also now recycling post-consumer waste where pipe is collected from the waste stream and recycled back into pipe products. Pipe recycling locations are available in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and PVC pipe can be recycled at general plastic recycling stations throughout Australia.
In Australia, plastic pipes were only widely deployed for use in water supply systems from the 1970’s. Due to plastic pipes being highly reliable, durable, and with a life expectancy exceeding 100 years, there is very little plastic pipe found in construction and demolition waste streams. Due to the low volume of plastic pipes in waste streams, the plastics pipe industry has had to make significant effort to collect volumes viable for designated recycling.
Additionally, it is only plastic pipe installed in buildings that is readily available for recycling after building demolition. The vast majority of plastic pipes used for water supply, sewerage and drainage applications are installed in ground. When these buried pipes reach the end of their serviceable lives and that is a long way off, they will likely not be available for recycling but rather will be the host pipe for some form of trenchless rehabilitation.
Having regard for this, our industry over the last decade has:
- Worked with major waste management companies
- Worked with major distributors of products
- Based on the identified “learnings” of 1 and 2, in terms of volumes, contamination from foreign material and issues of logistics, we moved to the current more focused and efficient model of small scale company facilities in some states and one dedicated recycler in Melbourne. In addition, we have worked with specific suppliers/clients such as Ausgrid, the Queensland coal seam gas industry and others for one-off projects. PIPA continually seeks new partnerships with industry and development projects to maximise the potential to recycle plastic pipe.
As plastic pipe enters the waste stream in higher volumes, the designated plastic pipe recycling schemes and sites will become more effective and the plastic pipe industry stands ready to utilise the material. This will further reduce the life cycle impacts of all plastics pipe. Combining all recycling sources, the total volume of material recycled by our industry is over 18,000T/a. This figure has been provided formally in March 2016 to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the NSW EPA.
Please note that Environmental Product Declarations (EPD’s) have been prepared for PVC, PE and PP pipe products.