Pipe systems may be buried and out of sight, but their contribution to public health and hygiene is significant. Health Safety and Environment matters therefore provide a continuous source of engagement for the plastic pipe industry.
The TEPPFA HSE Working Group deals with many interesting and actual issues. But issues are not the only agenda items discussed by these industry representatives. Policies are also worked out and given a mandate for action. The following areas are designed to give an overview of the scale and scope of the work carried out by the HSE team:
A Human Perspective
A house is hardly a home without plastic pipes. In the same way that we take electric lighting for granted until there is a black out, we also underestimate the well being that these pipes create.
But we expect a lot from them. We expect a continuous flow of clean drinking water to be piped into our homes and immediately available on tap. We demand that our wastewater is quickly and efficiently piped away from our homes. And we insist that gas, heating and telecommunication are immediately available at the flick of a switch and better still without any human effort whatsoever.
For the utility companies that provide these services and meet these expectations, the perspective is far from individual. But that is not to say that it is less human. For these companies, our daily sanitary needs and public health requirements are of paramount importance. It may be a big burden to shoulder in terms of social responsibility but they are not alone. The industry that supplies the pipes has common interests and similar commitments.
For example, the plastic pipes that enable the distribution and supply of drinking water must comply with very strict and legal requirements. The criteria for public health and the detailed assessment procedures to which these pipes are subject, are strictly defined. TEPPFA is therefore closely involved with the regulators and the regulated.
Because reputations require investment, TEPPFA coordinates its European efforts across a wide range of HSE stakeholders. These stakeholders comprise government bodies, technical committees and institutes, customers, suppliers, environmental groups, academia, etc.
The public agenda in the field of sustainability has immediate consequences for the plastic pipe industry. Regulatory experts anticipate that an update of the European Product Directive will include the European Product Declaration, Environmental Performance and Life Cycle Cost Analysis. Such a development would establish the credentials of the industry further.
Life Cycle analyses of plastics reveal a very good environmental performance. Furthermore, energy consumption in the production process is very low. The manufacture of plastics from raw materials requires less energy than for metals and glass. Processing of plastic resin requires lower temperatures.
From a more global viewpoint, environmental credentials are even more impressive. Plastics consume only four percent of the world’s oil as feedstock whereas around 90% is used for heating and transport.
The guidelines for ‘sustainable’ buildings are becoming ever more stringent. They demand that the impact on the environment and the associated consumption of energy costs and resources are minimised. And all of this throughout all phases of the life cycle of a building - from design to demolition!
The legislative pressure which affects the construction industry is being driven by the imminent EU ‘Energy Performance in Buildings Directive’. This legislation has profoundly influenced member governments who in turn, have introduced their own new building regulations.
Industry has also introduced leading edge solutions to boost energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Examples are pipe systems to extract geothermal energy or to lower temperature but not comfort within buildings such as underfloor heating and ceiling cooling. Even by virtue of material attributes, plastic pipes need less insulation.
Legislation within REACH
REACH is a new European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use. It deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances. TEPPFA plays a coordinating role in preparing its industry members for the legislation.
The aim of REACH is to improve the protection of human health and the environment by identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances. At the same time, innovative capability and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry should be enhanced.
The REACH Regulation gives responsibility to industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. Manufacturers and importers will be required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki.
The European plastic pipes industry is well prepared for this legislation and will meet its demands.
Collection and recycling schemes for post use plastic pipe waste have earned our industry much political goodwill in Europe. For example, many municipal authorities now insist that all the products they purchase are recyclable.
As a mark of faith, the plastic pipes and fittings producers represented by TEPPFA signed a Voluntary Commitment, together with most other PVC producers and converters, to recycle increasing quantities of PVC waste. Furthermore our industry agreed to replace lead stabilizers.
This Commitment is coordinated by Vinyl 2010 who publish an annual progress report and are supervised by the Monitoring Committee also involving representatives from the European Commission.
Recovinyl has been set up to facilitate and register audited PVC waste recycling in Europe.
The agreed target for 2010 is 200.000 tons.