How big are the PVC industry and the pipe industry in Europe and in the world?
In 2017, the European PVC business sector represented:
1.0 million tonnes of pipes and fittings
To the moon and back‘Pipes and fittings’ is the second-largest PVC application market, for which 22% – or around 1 million tonnes – of PVC produced in Europe is used. Durability, superior long-term stiffness and high strength to weight ratio are some of the key reasons to use PVC for pipes. Examples of PVC piping applications are water supply, sewage and underground drainage, rainwater systems, hot and cold water applications, and industrial piping networks. PVC pipes are usually divided into three categories, each with their own technical advantages: PVC-U (unplasticised), PVC-O (molecular oriented) and PVC-C (chlorinated). Fun fact: if all the annual European PVC pipe tonnage was converted into a 110 mm drain pipe at 1.7 kg/m, it would equal to 735,294 km, which is the distance to the moon and back.
Pipes for centuries
PVC products in general and pipes in particular are very well suited to be part of a sustainable future. The plastic has always been regarded as a low-carbon polymer, made from 57% common salt and only 43% oil or natural gas – far less than other thermoplastics. Moreover, research is ongoing to replace the carbon with non-fossil resources. PVC’s recyclability is also unmatched: studies show that a PVC pipe can be recycled multiple times without losing its technical properties and without adding new material. With an expected service life of 100 years or more for underground PVC pipes, that is equal to centuries of material life!
A voluntary commitment to sustainable development
The Circular Economy, sustainable development and resource-efficiency are three concepts that are not new to the European PVC, and that are at the top of its agenda. For two decades, VinylPlus®, the Voluntary Commitment to sustainable development of the European PVC industry, has been a key contributor to the Circular Economy by ensuring continuous growth in the recycling of PVC. Since 2000, around 5.7 million tonnes of PVC have been recycled cumulatively within the VinylPlus framework. The results are substantial: as each kg of recycled PVC prevents 2 kgs of CO2 from being emitted into our atmosphere, VinylPlus’ recycling activities since 2000 have saved around 11,000,000 tonnes of CO2! PVC recycling also contributes to creating thousands of green European jobs, and energy and resource savings.