Reducing pipe waste through Pipeback

Iplex is looking for ways to apply sustainability principles in everything it does, and recycling pipe waste with Pipeback is one solution.

Iplex is committed to protecting the environment, health and safety of its employees, customers, and communities. It is continually looking for ways to apply sustainability principles in everything it does.

As part of this commitment, Iplex is working towards enabling a circular economy within the pipe industry. It has established its stewardship program, Pipeback, to help minimise clean unwanted pipe offcuts going to landfills and maximise the sustainable use of pipes.

Iplex has established Pipe and Packing Recycling Centres within Australia’s manufacturing and distribution sites. It can accept polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Iplex polyethylene (PE), and AS/NZ 4130-compliant PE pipe offcuts and fittings. Other recyclable products include timber frames and timber scallops. In providing this service, Iplex aims to minimise waste-to-landfill practices at the early stages of pipe installation. Thus, supporting Australia’s plight on plastic waste reduction and transition towards a circular economy.

Common plastics like PE and PVC used in pipe production are made to last and are made from 100% recyclable materials. They are also made to some of the world’s most stringent standards, making them resourceful if they can be returned for recycling.

When discussing Pipeback, the go-to person is Elaina Lobendahn. She is the National Sustainability Manager at Iplex, using her engineering and systems industry experience to help Pipeback succeed and grow.

How does Pipeback work?

It all starts with one good business decision to avoid landfilling unwanted clean pipe offcuts. Customers are a key part of this process.

“Pipeback allows all sectors, including the plumbing, construction, and water industry, to return clean, unwanted PVC and Iplex PE pipe offcuts,” said Lobendahn. “These offcuts are usually generated on job sites at the point of installation and can be returned to any of our participating recycling centres around Australia. We currently have seven sites across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia.”

Pipeback provides guidance criteria on our website to assist customers in returning their offcuts correctly. A simple Pipeback form completed on the Iplex website allows anyone to engage with the program at different locations. Pipeback provides accessibility and customer-friendly service that is easy and simple to engage with. This has immensely contributed to the success of the program.

“Iplex also offers more collaborative partnerships with its long-term customers. The goal is to develop long-term solutions that see projects expand on sustainability requirements and outcomes. These partnerships go beyond the drop-off service to include education, optimisation of design, and supporting their sustainability goals,” she said.

Returns are then processed and incorporated into remanufacturing selective pipe products under strict product standards. Recovering clean unwanted pipe offcuts is just the beginning. There is a lot more we can do. A new way of thinking worldwide regarding plastic production will drive more reuse and recovery for remanufacture.

Support from industry

The Pipeback program is continuing to develop and grow, with the Iplex team focused on optimising the returns process and its service offering. “A lot of our customers and participants are taken back by the fact it is a voluntary program,” said Lobendahn.

“The Plastics Industry Pipe Association of Australia (PIPA) are massive supporters of the stewardship of plastic pipes,” she said.

Iplex collaborates with PIPA and other industry participants on another recycling program, the Queensland Government-supported Construction Plastics Recycling Program, to better understand plastic pipe waste flows.

A growing focus for Pipeback will be on having conversations early enough to make positive changes. “Without concerted industry efforts, the volumes of pipe waste to landfill will continue to grow,” she said.

“Iplex, as a manufacturer and supplier of pipe products with specialist product knowledge and in-house technical expertise, will be an important voice in the broader industry conversations around recovery and recycling, plastic production, water challenges and infrastructure resilience. We aren’t just looking at recycling pipes. Iplex is looking at a wide range of sustainability programs and partnerships,” said Lobendahn.

Future growth of Pipeback

Iplex believes that there are multiple growth paths for Pipeback moving forward. “We must continue to think big and work collaboratively,” said Lobendahn.

Pipeback will grow organically with industry. It is currently focused on collecting clean unwanted pipe offcuts produced during installation. The next big challenge for Pipeback will be the recovery and processing of pipes reaching the end of service life that has been used for decades.

“It will require a collaborative effort by industry and certainly Government support. It will require champions and partnerships that are cross-functional between different industries.”

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