Plastics Pipe Institute encourages going underground with recycling

The Plastics Pipe Institute Inc. (PPI; Irving, TX) applauded the recent formation of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, noting that 12 of the 30 companies involved in the alliance are PPI members. The North American trade association represents all segments of the plastic pipe industry, and its members believe the new initiative will help to solve another significant problem aside from eliminating plastic waste.

"The plastics industry has now taken a quantum leap toward solving the problem of plastic waste," said PPI President Tony Radoszewski, CAE, in a prepared statement. "With the formation of the alliance, the industry is driving forward a major initiative that has set realistic and obtainable goals. The PPI membership also sees another benefit, which is an increase in the supply of recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resin,” said Radoszewski, adding that one of its members reports using more than 400 million pounds of recycled material annually.

HDPE pipe/Plastics Pipe Institute
The plastic pipe industry currently processes 25% of all post-consumer high-density polyethylene bottles and converts them into products used in underground infrastructure.

Primarily used for underground storm water infrastructure management and agricultural drainage projects, some HDPE pipe can be made using more than 40% recycled HDPE resin, according to PPI.

"For decades, our members have been capturing the value of discarded plastic by using it to make plastic pipe," said Radoszewski. "Plastic milk bottles and detergent bottles have been recycled and incorporated into agricultural drainage pipe since the 1980s. Today, we are working with research firms and the American Association of Highway Transportation Officials to produce storm water drainage pipe incorporating post-consumer recycled plastic for use in highway culverts.

“Our industry currently processes 25% of all post-consumer HDPE bottles—mainly from liquid detergent products—and converts them into products used in underground infrastructure,” he said. In the process, bottles and containers with a 60-day shelf life are being recycled into pipes with a 100-year service life. “But there's not enough to meet  demand,” added Radoszewski. “While this might be a problem for pipe manufacturers, it is a golden opportunity to bring the goals set out by the alliance to the next level, and answers the question of what to do with all that increase in waste due to the success of the alliance's programs.” 

To make one standard 20-foot length of 48-inch diameter HDPE pipe containing 40% recycled HDPE resin requires between 1,600 to 2,200 discarded bottles, according to Radoszewski. “Most storm water drainage projects using this type of pipe run in the thousands of feet, sometimes even miles. This is how the plastic pipe industry uses an enormous number of post-consumer plastic bottles and puts what was formerly a solid waste issue to good use in beneficial, long-lasting projects."

The alliance's four main goals are projects for collection development; innovation to make recovering plastics easier; education and engagement of the government, businesses and groups; and to clean up major waste sites such as specific rivers.

"Recycling is an important end-of-life option for plastic materials," Radoszewski continued. "Additional infrastructure is necessary worldwide to improve and increase the collection, and ultimately, the supply of recycled plastics. Both of these issues combine to bring a holistic approach that leads to a sustainable solution. We believe that is the prime directive of the alliance. The members of the Plastics Pipe Institute are excited to be in partnership with organizations that will take sustainability to the next level by giving recycled resin a new life," said Radoszewski.

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