Once upon a time HDPE pipes and fittings were merely viewed as alternative products in a pile of numerous options for infrastructure projects in Africa. Now they are becoming a necessity, their importance enhanced by contemporary demands of our times.
Those who have been observant can note an attitude shift in the choice of construction materials worldwide, with growing preference for products which address our generation’s main priorities – cost and environmental consciousness. This is prominent in the piping industry, in the application of high density polyethylene (HDPE)pipes and fittings in particular.
It is hard to ignore the growing bias towards HDPE pipes and fittings due to their green attributes and comparative cost effectiveness.
A recently concluded study by the South African Plastic Pipes Manufacturers Association (SAPPMA) Technical Committee substantiates the growing appetite for HDPE pipes and fittings as the right products to address current infrastructure development challenges. In general, the study’s findings underline the main benefits that HDPE brings as low energy costs, low environmental impact and reasonably low operation and maintenance costs over products manufactured from other materials.
HDPE pipes and fittings are Highly biodegradable
In fact, one gains a better appreciation about the benefits of HDPE particularly, when ease of recycling and lower energy costs incurred in the recycling process are considered, points out SAPPMA Chairperson, Jan Venter.
“The ability to be recycled with minimal waste significantly reduces environmental pollution, a feature not very prominent in other products,” he notes.
While Construction Review could not be able to gather data from other parts of Africa, information from Plastics South Africa, a non-profit organisation that campaigns for the recycling of plastic products in South Africa, lends substantial credence to the fact that plastic is more recyclable. The organization has noticed an increase in the number of recycled HDPE products.
Just in 2014 for instance, a record 14,000 tonnes of HDPE and Polyvinylchloride (PVC) material was recycled at external facilities, according to the organisation. If you add 8,000 tonnes recycled in-house by manufacturers, the figure goes up to 22,000 tonnes.
It should not be surprising at all that the recycled volumes of HDPE pipes and fittings are much higher. In comparison to steel and iron the cost of recycling HDPE materials is significantly lower. The SAPPMA report says it would cost four times the energy used to recycle steel or ductile iron than HPDE or other forms of plastic.
Besides, what makes steel pipes tedious to recycle is that they are lined with materials which need to be removed before being recycled. Removing the lining is a convoluted process on its own, which might require more energy.
Indeed, it is apparent that the world is becoming a greener place with the adoption of HDPE pipes and fittings as products of choice, considering their lower carbon footprint. However, if truth be told, HDPE is not toppling steel and ductile iron any time soon, but it is proving a better alternative.