Plastic pipes have played an essential role in our daily lives for over 80 years. Whilst the industry continues to innovate and grow, the history is fascinating to read.
1930s: Unplasticised polyvinyl(chloride) (PVC-U) pipes used for sanitary drainage systems. Polyethylene (PE) polymer developed and used in cable protection for radar insulation during World War Two.
1950s: Pressurised plastic pipes for drinking water pipes installed in the Netherlands. Production of the first plastic valve. PE used to create ducting for insulation and extrusion method used to create the first HDPE drainage pipes in the UK.
1960s: Plastic rainwater systems introduced into the housing development market. PVC-U above ground soil and waste systems launched and the introduction of the elastomeric ring seal increased the use of plastic pipes for below ground drainage due to ease of installation. The British Standard was launched for soil systems, allowing local authorities to specify PVC-U systems.
1970s: Plastics in above ground drainage applications accounted for 50% of the market, while plastic rainwater systems were used in over 60% of new installations. Introduction of plastic pipes in highway drainage, for cable ducting and pressurised gas supplies. Rapid growth of PE used by the water and gas industries. Introduction of chlorinated polyvinyl(chloride) (PVC-C) for hot and cold plumbing systems. First plastic chambers for access to drainage systems introduced.
1980s: Introduction of improved grades of PE and the use of blue pigmented MDPE material for UK water supply. Twin-walled and multi-walled pipes were launched providing superior performance with lower material content and weight. New markets continued to open up including commercial and high-rise, multi-occupancy buildings. Polybutylene (PB) push fit systems for hot and cold water applications increased flexibility, speed of installation and resistance to bursting.
1990s: Plastic pipes first used in underfloor heating systems and central heating systems. Uptake of plastic systems by building and plumbing merchants increased. Major advance in technology enables production of very large diameter structured wall pipes for sewers, surface water management and highway applications. Modular geocellular tanks developed for largescale stormwater attenuation systems.
2000s: By 2001, 7% of new domestic properties were built using plastic pipework for the hot and cold plumbing systems and by 2007, this had increased to 90%. Polyethylene became a material of choice for many gas and water utilities for new pipes and renovation, utilising electrofusion, butt fusion and mechanical jointing. Increased development of brownfield sites led to innovations in barrier pipes for protection of water supply from contaminants.
The plastic pipe industry has continued to innovate and grow with products developed for district heating systems; low noise sanitary installations; and a wide range of industrial applications exploiting the chemical and temperature resistance of the many polymers available today. Our manufacturers work closely with our customers to provide products which are suitable for modern day applications, develop technically sound guidance and best practice for specifiers and installers. The resulting solutions are well engineered, long-lived and sustainable.