NEW ZEALAND’S PVC PIPE RECYCLING SCHEME
PVC pipe manufacturers across New Zealand have joined forces to provide a recycling solution for their products.
Most PVC plastic pipe in New Zealand is made by three companies: Marley, Iplex Pipelines and RX Plastics. These three companies are now taking responsibility for their products at the end of their useful life, or when those products become waste. As part of a nationwide pipe recycling programme, clean PVC plastic pipe can be delivered, free-of-charge, to recycling drop-off locations in Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Ashburton.
Worldwide, the majority of plastic pipe is made from either PVC (polyvinylchloride), or PE (polyethylene). The choice of plastic depends on the way the pipe will be used.
Most people are surprised to learn that PVC is actually made from 56 percent salt and 44 percent fossil hydrocarbons (oil or natural gas). The electrolysis of salt water produces chlorine. The chlorine is then combined with ethylene that has been obtained from oil or gas, and manufactured into PVC.
Around 85 percent of PVC resin manufactured every year is used in durable, long-life products designed to last more than 15 years, such as window frames, pipes, floor coverings and electrical cable insulation.
More than half of all PVC manufactured in the world is used in construction, and the majority of that is for pipes which are designed to last over 100 years. This means pipe is not a common product being disposed of in our landfills. It is only dealt with as a waste when there are offcuts from construction projects, or pipe is removed from buildings when being demolished.
The durability of plastic pipe gives some important benefits over other materials. Interestingly, plastic pipe was found to perform better in the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes in which 1,700km of pipe was severely damaged. A University of Canterbury study found that the older more brittle pipes present in the Christchurch wastewater network, asbestos cement, cast iron, earthenware and reinforced concrete suffered higher amounts of damage than the plastic pipe materials, polyvinylchloride and polyethylene, according to author Kate Brooks at the University.
PVC, like all other thermoplastics, is fully recyclable. At the end of their life, PVC pipes can be collected, recycled and turned into other products. The catch is that there has to be the processing technology available, and there needs to be a market for the recycled material. This is where the pipe manufacturing industry in New Zealand has stepped up to ‘close the loop’ by providing the solution to the recycling of their products.
Clean PVC pipe can be delivered to recycling facilities in Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Ashburton. Loads are inspected to ensure there is no contamination. The recycling process requires there to be no other materials, dirt, or stones as these will cause problems for the recycling machinery. This means a load must not contain; other materials such as wood or paper, any other types of plastic products, excessively dirty pipe, or pipe used for sewage. The success of this recycling scheme is highly dependent on ensuring the pipe for recycling is free of contaminants. It is important that customers sort their waste thoroughly before delivering.
Both PE and PVC pipe material is accepted for recycling. The two different types of pipe are separated at the recycling centres for processing. After sorting, the pipe is ground up and recycled into other pipe applications like drain flow coil pipe. In some cases recycled material is incorporated into new pipe by sandwiching recycled material between thin layers of virgin plastic.
Recently, one of New Zealand’s largest civil construction companies, Fulton Hogan, made use of the new programme to recycle mixed plastic pipe from one of their major construction projects. The pipe had collected over several months at the Lincoln Rd Interchange motorway project in Auckland.
“We have a commitment to reducing waste to landfill as part of our Sustainability Strategy,” says Fulton Hogan’s Sustainability Manager, Michael LeRoy-Dyson, “and this programme provided us with a simple solution to plastic pipe waste that had been collecting over time at the project.” The plastic pipe was delivered to the Marley pipe recycling facility in Manurewa, Auckland, where it was sorted and re-processed. “Plastic pipe is a common waste stream from our construction projects across New Zealand. Until now we have struggled to find a recycling avenue, particularly for PVC pipe. Now all our projects are able to use this recycling service whenever possible,” says LeRoy-Dyson.
In a similar story, Iplex Pipelines has recently recycled a large batch of PVC pipe from an unusual source. Frank O’Callaghan of Iplex explains: “Around 1.5 tonnes of PVC in the form of short lengths of pipe was delivered to our plant in Palmerston North. The pipe had been used in the dairy industry as cheese moulds and the cheesemaker wanted to get them recycled. The material was ideal, because it was very clean and was all one material. We were able to chip the material and recycle it back into new pipe.”
These are two great examples of how organisations can use this new service to avoid landfill costs and have their plastic pipe recycled.
The industry scheme is still in the early stages with the participating companies eager to take more material from those looking for a solution for plastic pipe waste.
Anyone wanting to recycle bulk PVC or PE plastic pipe that is relatively clean, can contact the following to find out more.
New PVC pipe containing a recycled core sandwiched between layers of virgin PVC.