Irrigation systems have a history of more than 3,000 years. The history of plastic pipes, however, goes back to the 19th century. PVC was first discovered in 1835, with polymerization occurring around 1870. For many years, plastics were thought of more as a curiosity than a commercially-viable product.
It would be until 1932 when the first tubes made from PVC would be produced. The first plastic pipes were made by using a hydraulic extruder and a roll mill. Because there was so much variation in the end product, the quality was difficult to accept on a commercial level. Yet, by 1939, about 400 homes in Germany were using PVC pipes for their water and waste pipelines.
By 1941, several German cities, including Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig, had all tested plastic pipes for their plumbing.
By the 1960s, advances in plastic pipe manufacturing standardized the industry. This product competes with traditional designs and products within several industries, including gas distribution and electrical conduits.
Fascinating Plastic Pipe Industry Statistics
#1. Plastic pipes and parts manufacturing is an industry valued at $19 billion in the United States. From 2012-2017, the industry grew at an annualized average rate of 2.7%. (IBIS World)
#2. The industry currently has about 875 firms operational within the United States. Combined, they are responsible for about 43,000 direct employment opportunities. (IBIS World)
#3. Germany is the global leader for rigid tubes, pipes, and hose imports for the plastic pipe industry. In 2016, they imported $139 million worth of products. France was a close second, with $123 million in imports. The United States, Canada, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom all imported over $50 million in products as well. (Plastics Insight)
#4. The total U.S. demand for plastic pipe is expected to reach $63.5 billion in total value. (Freedonia Group)
#5. By 2020, the global market for PVC pipe is expected to reach almost 54 million tons. Wiring and cables account of about 10% of the total consumption of PVC globally each year. (Statista)
#6. With more than 60 years of field experience and research, PVC pipe is known to have a service life of more than 100 years. (Water Finance and Management)
#7. 66% of the water supply pipes in the United States are 8 inches in diameter or smaller. Using PVC instead of iron for these pipes could save $21 billion in pumping costs over the lifetime of the plastic pipe. (Water Finance and Management)
#8. Water management and the wastewater industry account for up to 40% of a community’s overall energy consumption. Switching to PVC pipe would reduce many of these costs, as ductile iron pipe can have a lifespan of just 11 years. (Water Finance and Management)
#9. It takes 54% more energy to pump water through ductile iron pipe than it does to pump it through plastic pipes. (Water Finance and Management)
#10. Not all plastics are created the same either. The energy cost of pumping water through HDPE pipes is double that of pumping it through a PVC pipe. (Water Finance and Management)
#11. Corrosive soils affect 75% of a community’s water utilities. If PVC pipes were used to replace HDPE pipes, up to $37 billion could be saved over the lifetime of the installation. (Water Finance and Management)
#12. The installation of PVC pipe can be up to 70% less than the cost of installing iron pipes within a community’s infrastructure. (Water Finance and Management)
#13. PVC pipes, on their own, generate economic activities valued at $14 billion. About 25,000 jobs are directly supported by PVC pipe. (Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association)
#14. The PVC market is forecast to have a value of $72.3 billion by the year 2021 at the time of writing. (Statista)
#15. Germany leads Europe in demand levels for plastic pipe, tubes, and fittings, with over 676.4 million kilograms installed annually. Italy comes in second, with 433 million kg of demand. Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom all have demand levels above 300 million kg. (Plastics Insight)
#16. North America consumes the most plastics per person in the world, averaging 139 kg per person in 2015. Western Europe comes in second, averaging 136 kg per person. Japan is the only other nation or region above 100 kg per person. (Plastics Insight)
#17. In Europe, 28% of the PVC that is manufactured is directed toward profiles. 22% of it is used for pipes and fittings. The next most common application is rigid film, accounting for 9% of total PVC demand. (PVC.org)
#18. In total, more than 78 billion pounds of plastics are produced globally each year. About 17% of these plastics, including plastic pipes, are destined for the building and construction industry. 20% goes to institutional and consumer industries. About one-third of all plastics created, however, are destined to become packaging. (American Chemistry Council)
#19. In 2017, about 19 billion pounds of HDPE was produced, which was a 1.9% decrease from the year before. Demand levels of HDPE are consistent with the production levels that are achieved. (American Chemistry Council)
#20. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 4% of electricity consumption in the United States is used for pumping drinking water or wastewater services annually. That equates to 56 billion kilowatts, with a value of $4 billion. (American Chemistry Council)
Plastic Pipe Industry Trends and Analysis
The plastic pipe industry continues to be a major driver of revenues in several segments. From automobiles to new home construction, PVC pipes reduce energy consumption while improving performance. There do not affect the quality of the water or fuel they transport. They are not as affected by corrosive soils when compared to traditional iron pipes.
There are numerous advantages that come with plastic pipes. They can reduce emissions and obstructions. Plastic pipes reduce propane use. They resist plaque buildup over time. Connectors and fittings allow for flexible installations that require a minimal amount of labor. Flexible plastic pipe can even bend to a radius that is 25 times its diameter.
That gives this industry a number of advantages. As the developing world seeks to modernize and income levels continue to rise, expect this industry to transition from its mature markets into these new areas. There will always be a demand for plastic pipe in the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia and Africa.
This allows the industry to continue making a positive economic impact, locally and globally, as it has been doing for the past 60 years.