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An increasing number of Australians would also recognise pipes
made from cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) and polybutylene (PB)
that are used for hot and cold water pipes inside their homes.
PVC pipes have been used extensively for drain waste and vent
applications inside buildings for more than 50 years. Their light
weight and rigidity make them ideal for these gravity pipe systems.
Couple that with a simple, effective jointing system that is very
cost-effective, and you will begin to understand why these pipe
systems are found in practically every building.
PEX and PB pipes are specifically formulated for both hot
and cold water plumbing applications. Again, these are cost-
effective systems that match simple jointing to designs that use
fewer fittings and provide installations that are free from water
These systems not only deliver drinking water and remove
wastewater, but they will also perform this task virtually
maintenance-free for the life of the building.
What many people may fail to appreciate is that every major utility
supplying critical services to homes and businesses relies heavily
on the long-term performance of plastic pipe systems. Australia’s
water distribution network has for many years depended more
on plastic for pipe systems than on any other material. The
performance data from Australia’s major water utilities clearly
confirms that the best-performing pressure pipe system is PVC,
followed by polyethylene (PE). Water and wastewater utilities now
use more plastic pipe systems to deliver clean drinking water and
then safely remove wastewater than any other pipe material.
It’s not just urban utilities that take advantage of plastics. In rural
and regional Australia, for irrigation projects, and for stock and
domestic networks, such as the 8500-kilometre Wimmera Mallee
Pipeline System, it is plastics that are without doubt the material
The materials commonly found in pipe systems for utilities are
PVC, PE and polypropylene (PP).
The most commonly used engineering plastic for pipe applications
is PVC. PVC has been used for infrastructure pipes in Australia for
around 50 years in both pressure and non-pressure applications.
PVC is the best-performing pressure water pipe system in the
country, based on CSIRO analysis of the performance data from
the Australian water agencies. PVC is also the most commonly
used material for sewer pipe systems. In all of these applications,
the pipes’ resistance to the corrosive effects of the soil that they
are buried in, and the effects of the water and wastewater that
they transport, are key elements to their success. Combine this
with structural integrity and a simple, effective jointing system, and
you can appreciate why these systems perform so well.
PE is another engineering plastic commonly used for pipe in utility
applications. While PE is often installed in traditional open-trench
conditions, its welded joint system and its ability to be produced in
long coils means that these systems are well suited to trenchless
installation methods like directional drilling and slip lining. These
long, continuous lengths also allow them to take advantage of
innovative installation methods, such as plough-in. Trenchless
techniques are finding increasing favour, not only because of their
cost advantages, but also because they minimise disruption to
traffic, pedestrian access and impact to the environment with their
small construction footprint.
Finally, there is PP, which, for Australia in the context of utility
services, is used primarily for non-pressure applications, like sewer
and stormwater drainage. The lightweight, simple and effective
jointing, and excellent corrosion resistance are the attractions of
THE MOST COMMONLY
PLASTIC FOR PIPE
APPLICATIONS IS PVC.
PVC HAS BEEN USED
PIPES IN AUSTRALIA FOR
AROUND 50 YEARS IN
BOTH PRESSURE AND NON-
Best Environmental Practice PVC waste water pipe
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