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Sustainability of PVC (Vinyl) Pipe: A Comprehensive Environmental Review of PVC Pipe



Plastic Pipes Conference Association # 2016 Berlin

Bruce Hollands

The 2016 “Sustainability of PVC Pipe Study” is the first comprehensive environmental review of underground piping systems in North America based on a 100 year life cycle assessment methodology. The overall review includes a study of PVC pipe conducted according to life cycle assessment (LCA) standards. The LCA was peer reviewed and conducted according to life cycle assessment (LCA) standards ISO 14040 series and combined with an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) in compliance with ISO 14025 standards and independently certified by NSF International, which stated, “PVC pipe and fittings are resistant to chemicals generally found in water and sewer systems, preventing any leaching or releases to ground and surface water... No known chemicals are released internally into the water system. No known toxicity effects occur in the use of the product.” The PVC Pipe LCA was subject to critical review from an international panel of experts on life cycle assessment and water distribution systems. Based on the results from the industry-wide LCA on PVC pipe and other life cycle analysis methodologies, PVC pipe provides both environmental and economic advantages to solving the water infrastructure needs for utilities and municipal projects. The LCA and research conducted for this study shows that PVC does have lower environmental impacts from a life-cycle and carbon footprint perspective - lower embodied energy, lower use-phase energy, and longer life attributes than other pipe materials. It is important for engineers and municipal officials to understand all life cycle aspects of piping materials and utilize the most current and complete data to assess life cycle environmental impacts to communities. This report is presented to the public and the water industry at a time of crisis when underground corroded pipe materials and water quality issues are at the fore front which highlights significant issues with the national water and wastewater infrastructure .

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