Process Materiality Anaylsis: Plastic Pipe Segment
The Value Chain for the Plastic Pipes Segment
The description of the most important steps of the value chain for plastic pipes and fittings applies to the Pipelife business unit, including the Pipelife production site within the North America Division.
Sustainability in the supply chain and in raw material sourcing
Pipelife pipes and fittings are made primarily of mineral-oil-based PVC powder and polyolefin granulates. Relevant sustainability aspects include environmental protection and the respect of human rights in oil extraction as well as energy efficiency and climate protection in oil processing. The plastic materials obtained from suppliers (PVC, PP and PE) should be free of potentially hazardous substances. These issues are covered by legislation, i.e. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization und Restriction of Chemicals) applicable within the EU and TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) applicable in the USA.
Recycled plastic materials can be used for the production of numerous Pipelife products, provided all requirements in terms of product quality and product properties as well as the relevant standards are met. The use of recycled plastic materials is one way of improving the ecological aspects of the value chain for Pipelife products.
Environmental aspects in production
The most important form of energy used in the production of plastic pipes and fittings is electricity. The primary focus, therefore, is on energy efficiency. Using electricity from renewable sources helps to reduce indirect CO2 emissions. As hardly any direct CO2 emissions are generated in production, Pipelife is not subject to the European CO2 emissions trading system. The consumption of water from public networks for cooling purposes is very low. Larger quantities are drawn from wells or bodies of surface water, which are subsequently discharged into the environment, free of pollution and therefore do not count as water consumed. The consumption of resources can be reduced through product design and by reducing scrap and waste to a minimum.
Social aspects in production
As in the other Divisions, safety and health of employees as well as business ethics and compliance are important social aspects in production. These and other aspects are described in the chapters “Employees” and “Social Responsibility”.
Sustainability in period of use and at end-of-life
Sustainability aspects during the products’ service life are as varied as the Pipelife product range. There is, however, a common denominator: high product quality, which is crucial for a long service life and the avoidance of leakages, and the innovative strength of new products. Public infrastructure is a sector with high demand for such products. As a consequence of climate change, weather conditions are becoming more extreme in many parts of the world. Heavy flooding occurs more frequently, and public sewer networks and water management systems are no longer able to cope with excessive quantities of rain water. Pipelife offers solutions for heavy rain events. Rain water can be efficiently captured even on smaller surfaces, stored and re-used. Water retained for subsequent re-use should be as clean as possible. Pipelife’s advanced filtering and cleaning systems include heavy-metal and oil separators. Moreover, Pipelife offers solutions for small-scale water treatment plants for decentralized applications. Technologies of this type are well-suited for use in developing countries.
Plastic pipes contribute to the sustainable management of green spaces in a variety of ways. Irrigation systems serve to increase agricultural output for a growing world population and ensure a more efficient use of scarce water resources. Drainage systems prevent landslides caused by heavy rain. Plastic pipes installed in buildings have a beneficial climate effect, as heat losses can be minimized through insulated heating and hot-water pipes. Geothermal and solar collectors made of plastic pipes open up renewable or alternative sources of energy. Moreover, special plastic pipes for electric installations offer improved protection from electro-magnetic fields. Ease of assembly is an important consideration for Pipelife. Thanks to a design effort aimed at reducing product weight while maintaining product quality and safety, Pipelife products are easy to install.
Plastic pipes can be re-used at the end of their life cycle. Pipelife is for example a member of the Austrian Working Group on Plastic Pipe Recycling (ÖAKR), which operates a collection system for end-of-life pipes, fittings and pipe scrap left over after installation throughout Austria. Pipelife uses recycled material from used PVC pipes for the production of cable ductings. Modern waste management aims at a high recycling rate, efficient heat recovery and the avoidance of landfilling. Pipelife does not operate in markets in which inadequate disposal practices, such as irregular incineration of PVC-containing plastic pipes, are common.