PVC Pipe: Best Choice for the Environment

Helping Build a Greener Tomorrow

PVC Pipe: Best Choice for the Environment


PVC piping is one of the world’s most sustainable products, making it ideal for long-term term use in underground infrastructure. It requires less energy and fewer resources to manufacture than old-technology materials, and its production creates virtually no waste.

Moreover, it is produced with sustainable and abundant resources: chlorine, which is derived from salt, and domestically produced natural gas, which helps reduce consumption of imported oil. About 85 per cent of our medicines are manufactured with chlorine chemistry.

For real sustainability, long-term performance and efficient resource management is critical.

The North American PVC pipe industry is very serious about the environment.


No Smoke Stacks

Clean and Safe Manufacturing

PVC pipe manufacturing is extremely efficient, with virtually 100 percent of the PVC compound being  used. It takes four times less energy to make than concrete pipe, and half that used for iron pipe.

There are no smoke stacks at PVC pipe facilities and the product is completely recyclable, making its  environmental footprint far smaller than competing piping materials. Contrast this with the cement industry – the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

PVC pipe’s ecological credentials have been demonstrated by numerous life-cycle assessments, which    scientifically assess the impact of a product, from raw material extraction to end-of-life.

And since sustainability involves a social dimension, it’s important to look at it in terms of human resources  and worker safety. According to the United States Bureau of Labor, the plastic piping industry has an outstanding record in this area, experiencing far fewer injuries and illnesses in every phase of production, on average, than similar industries.

A Sustainable Choice

A Smaller Human Footprint

PVC pipe’s ultra-smooth surface reduces pumping costs and its leak-free joints eliminate water loss – which can be up to 40 percent in some old-technology and corrosion-prone piping networks. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that 2.6 trillion gallons of potable water are lost every year through leaking pipes, or 17 percent of all water pumped in the U.S.

But PVC pipe’s greatest environmental attribute is perhaps its exceptional durability and corrosion resistance – leading to better water conservation and lower replacement, maintenance and repair costs. A study by the American Water Works Association Research Foundation recently put the life expectancy of PVC pipe at more than 110 years. Its light weight and ease of installation reduce transportation and installation costs, yielding further benefits to the environment.

Two Million Miles of Sustainable Piping

PVC leads all other piping materials in sustainability. Its durability, soundness, clean and energy efficient manufacture and transportation have made it the material of choice for water and wastewater applications. Today, more than two million miles of PVC pipe are in service throughout North America – helping build a greener tomorrow.

Environmental Product Declaration

ISO-compliant, peer-reviewed, industry-wide EPD covers PVC water and wastewater piping and helps municipalities and companies meet their green building and infrastructure goals

The Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association (PVCPA) has published the first North American industry-wide environmental product declaration (EPD) for water and sewer piping, and it has been verified by NSF Sustainability, a division of global public health organization NSF International.

The EPD was developed in compliance with international environmental management guidelines (ISO 14025) and benchmarks the impacts of seven PVC pipe products across their life cycles. This includes PVC pressure pipe for potable water, reclaimed water and sewer force main systems as well as PVC non-pressure pipe for storm sewer and sanitary sewer systems. NSF Sustainability reviewed and verified the life cycle assessment (on which the EPD is based) and EPD documents to ensure that no unsubstantiated claims were made and that the EPD followed all applicable rules.

Less Frequent Replacement

Environmental Product Declaration

The EPD pinpoints areas of greatest environmental impact as well as the environmental benefits of utilizing PVC piping. For example, the use phase of pressurized potable water pipe, during which pumps overcome friction to move water through pipe, was found to contribute the greatest environmental impacts throughout the product’s entire life cycle. The EPD also identified advantages in this stage such as the smooth interior surface of PVC pipe that minimizes friction and therefore energy consumption. PVC pipe is also corrosion resistant and has a proven durability in excess of 100 years, requiring less frequent replacement.

Environmental impact categories analyzed include global warming potential, ozone depletion, acidification, eutrophication, smog formation and cumulative energy demand. PVC pipe is designed to minimize environmental impacts due to its corrosion resistance, enabling long-term durability.

Click here to view the full EPD for water and sewer piping.