LCA of Australian Pipe

The PVC products industries have suffered from a vigorous campaign of opposition to the use of PVC from environmental groups resulting in widespread belief that PVC is inherently damaging to the environment and to human health.

LCA studies internationally and collated in the US, have shown that PVC products are typically no better or worse than the alternatives across a wide range of environmental and health risk assessments. An earlier study conducted by Edge Environment has shown that the conclusions from this international and US work are valid in Australia and that in the case of pipe, Australian PVC pipe is typically advantageous environmentally.

This project follows on from this earlier work and takes the investigation to a new level by conducting an LCA of 100mm PVC pipe from the 2 largest Australian producers, Vinidex and Iplex and drawing comparisons with data for competing pipe products estimated from the Australian SimaPro LCA dataset.

This study shows that per tonne impact assessments of PVC pipe appear to be highly representative of a full range of PVC pipe production and sizes. This enables a highly representative generic average Life Cycle Inventory to be compiled for Australian PVC pipe that can be used to contribute to the AusLCI or BPIC/ICIP projects.

The principal findings for Drain / Waste / Vent (DWV) pipe are that:

  • Copper pipe has the highest environmental impacts of all alternatives and would not be recommended on environmental grounds.
  • Ductile iron pipe is second worst and would not be recommended on environmental grounds.
  • Of the plastics pipes, foamed core PVC was the best, PE pipe was next best overlapping in performance with the worst case for foamed core PVC, solid wall PVC was next with ABS pipe as the worst of the plastics pipe alternatives, but still considerably better than the metal pipe alternatives..

The principal findings for pressure pipe are that:

  • PVC-o pipe was substantially the best performer with PE next best followed by different grades of PVC solid-walled pipe.
  • The polymeric pipes all outperformed the Cement Lined Ductile Iron pipe at the 100mm pipe size evaluated (this may be a limitation of this study for larger pressure pipe applications).

Life Cycle Assessment of Australian Pipe for the Plastics Industry Pipe Association of Australia by Edge Environment.

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