Moving Toward Fossil-Free Water Supply Networks: First Bio-Attributed PVC Pipe Installed in The Netherlands

20. June 2023 | 5 min read

PVC pipes are in high demand for water supply networks, as they are reliable, easy to handle, fully recyclable and extremely durable. Nowadays, PVC pipes can also be fossil-free and made using renewable resources. In December, the first bio-attributed PVC water supply pipeline in the Netherlands was installed in the Brabant town of Oirschot. The industry-shaping investment is a result of close cooperation between Pipelife and Brabant Water.

Building Sustainable Water Supply Networks 

Brabant Water is a Dutch water utility serving 2.6 million clients in the southern Netherlands. The company is committed to ensuring its supply networks are not only safe and reliable but also go above and beyond the current sustainability standards. 

Last year, Brabant Water was exploring the possibilities of using sustainably sourced PVC pipes for a water supply project in Oirschot. As the current standards do not allow using recycled PVC in potable water networks, Brabant Water turned to Pipelife Netherlands, enquiring about bio-based pipelines.

Pipelife's team was happy to produce and supply the required 400 meters of 63-millimeter PVC pipes for the network. The pipes, made from bio-attributed PVC, were successfully installed in December last year, creating the first bio-based water supply pipeline in the country.

Pipelife Biobased 7.12.2022 - 2

A Pivotal Moment for the PVC Industry

Representatives from both Brabant Water and Pipelife were at the installation site in Oirschot when the historic pipeline was laid in the ground.

"With this project, we want to pave the way for more sustainable materials in the water sector," commented Hanneke van de Ven, distribution director at Brabant Water. "In terms of composition, the pipe is exactly the same as the standard PVC pipe, but the raw materials are biobased." 

Pipelife Biobased 7.12.2022 - 18

"For the production of bio-attributed pipelines, the raw materials used for the PVC do not come from fossil sources, but from renewable sources, such as sugar cane or wood pulp or used cooking oil. The net CO2 savings can be up to 90%," added Aart Jan van der Meijden, Managing Director of Pipelife Netherlands.

Production of bio-attributed pipes for the Oirschot project was possible thanks to Pipelife's well-established cooperation with the raw material supplier Inovyn. The company uses wood pulp left as waste from the forest industry to make specialist-grade, bio-attributed PVC based on a mass balance concept. 

The material is identical to conventionally sourced PVC and bears the same chemical and mechanical properties, including high hygienic safety and corrosion resistance, excellent service life, and recyclability. In the Oirschot project, a total reduction of 77.7% in greenhouse gas emissions was achieved by using a bio-attributed piping system.

Pipelife Biobased 7.12.2022 - 28

Key to Circular Plastics Economy

At the moment, bio-based materials are still more expensive than conventional ones. But the prices are expected to fall as the market shifts toward sustainable infrastructure solutions, and the demand for bio-attributed PVC keeps growing. 

"If the water sector joins forces and expresses its ambition to go full steam ahead with bio-based materials, we can really make an impact and help accelerate this development," states van der Meijden, explaining the significance of collaboration with Brabant Water.

Both companies are now working on the next projects, and the Brabant network will feature even more bio-attributed water pipes already this year. 

As van der Meijden points out, the material has a potential service life of up to three centuries, making it crucial for achieving the circularity goals in the construction industry. 

"A PVC pipe can start its life as a pressure pipe for drinking water or gas. After a lifetime of approximately 100 years, it can be recycled into a cable protection pipe that has a lifespan of another 100 years. Finally, the same material can be recycled again and used in production, for example, of a sewage pipe that would have a service life of 100 more years. The weak link in terms of sustainability is using fossil raw materials for the first pipe. By switching to bio-based materials, we resolve this problem and close the circle."

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