Internal TEPPFA survey shows a record 218,000 tonnes of recycled plastics used in new plastic piping systems in 2020.
TEPPFA, the European Plastic Pipes and Fittings Manufacturers Association, has for the 12th consecutive year collected recycled plastics uptake data from its direct company members as well as from National Associations. The survey was conducted by VITO, an independent research organisation in the area of cleantech and sustainable development.
The recycled plastics used by the surveyed participants in 2020 amount to 218,000 tonnes, which is a significant increase compared to previous years in spite of difficult trading conditions with low virgin material cost at the beginning of the year and manufacturing standstills in some countries due to restrictions imposed by the fight against COVID-19.
It is encouraging to see that there is an increase for both PVC and PE/PP piping systems, partly supported by improved data collection from National Associations.
The larger part of recycled content comes from externally sourced pre- and post-consumer plastic waste. For PVC this is typically a mixture of PVC pipes, window frames and building profiles; for polyolefins there are various sources including HDPE bottles.
TEPPFA estimates that the surveyed companies represent about 60% of the plastic pipe market for building and infrastructure in Europe.
Meanwhile TEPPFA has worked on a consistent and credible interpretation of the recycling definitions. It actively participates in and supports the new EN-14541 standard which is aligned with ISO 14021 but rephrased to accommodate the needs of plastic piping systems. The definitions and examples used for a correct interpretation clearly show that rework is excluded from the scope. Only pre- and post-consumer recyclates are qualified as recycled content.
TEPPFA supports the transition towards a circular economy, a major cornerstone of the EU Green Deal. The organisation has therefore clear aspirations to further increase the voluntary uptake of recycled plastics without compromising on the performance and final characteristics of the product. The pledge submitted to the Circular Plastic Alliance in January 2021 gives evidence of TEPPFA’s ambitions.
To support a sustainable growth of recycled plastics in long life building and infrastructure applications, TEPPFA calls on European and national authorities to develop supportive measures to guarantee a constant availability of recyclates that meet the quality and economic requirements of plastic pipe manufacturers, especially if demand increases in other plastic sectors.
A further concern relates to a restriction on the use of recycled plastics that contain legacy additives. Some long-life plastic building products will inevitably contain “legacy additives”, which today are subject to REACH restrictions. TEPPFA members are constantly replacing them even before their use is restricted. However, if there is scientific evidence that these legacy additives in recycled plastic are safely bound in the polymer matrix, TEPPFA expects regulatory European and national authorities to allow their safe use in recycled plastics as the best end-of-life option.
Ludo Debever, General Manager of TEPPFA: “The survey results are far beyond our expectations taking into account the difficult market circumstances in 2020. They show evidence that TEPPFA members are determined to contribute to the Circular Economy. Plastic piping systems are generally recognised as durable, sustainable and high performing solutions for critical infrastructure and essential services to society. TEPPFA members are continuously investing in reducing the environmental footprint of their products and operations. Through increasing the recycled content and extending the life time, our members contribute significantly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable production and consumption and have the firm ambition to continue to do so.”