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Plastics pipe in the public spotlight in China

By: Nina Ying Sun

February 13, 2014

Plastic pipe manufacturers don’t usually make prime-time national TV news, but they did in China last month, and not in a good way

China Central TV (CCTV), the predominate state TV broadcaster, aired an investigative program Jan. 21 that revealed the rampant practice of using waste plastics to make substandard water pipe.

The reporting team randomly walked into about a dozen plastic pipe factories in Qidu Township of Jiangsu province, which houses 100 or so plastic pipe manufacturers. With the exception of one company, the interviewed sources all remained open about using recycled pellets.

The program later showed the sources of the regrind pellets, including waste plastic pipe, waste wires and cables, and waste plastic containers that were used to store chemicals. One recycler also had piles of medical waste on their premises.

China makes annually 12 million metric tons of plastic pipe, while nationwide capacity is more than twice as much. Half of the water pipe installed in 2012 were plastic, according to the program.

Within a couple hours from when the show was aired, according to Chinese media, local authorities launched an investigation and shut down production at the exposed factories. Local authorities also conducted a full-scale inspection of plastic pipe manufacturers in the area the next day.

The China Plastics Piping Association (CPPA) responded the next day, calling for pipe makers to take action to ensure product quality.

“The industry condemns such black sheep violation activities,” the Beijing-based group said in a statement it posted on its website.

“Within our industry, many bigger companies meet quality standards, so users can rest assured... But some companies do fall short of standards, by using recycled materials, reducing product thickness, and etc.”

CPPA said the exposed companies are not its members. It called for its 400-plus corporate members to strictly abide by quality standards and strengthen inspection of raw materials, production and final products. It also issued an official survey form and asked its members to submit information about their use of intake water pipe materials.

The association said it will work with authorities to improve the enforcement of quality standards and further define and advocate manufacturers’ responsibility for product lifetime quality.

CPPA said the entire industry needs to work together to combat such behavior and defend the industry’s reputation with social responsibility, honesty and self-discipline.

One of the companies featured in the TV coverage, Unient Plastic Technology (Suzhou) Co. Ltd., is a high profile player with multiple awards and press coverage.

“We suggest that inspection agencies and organizers of industry awards not indulge illegal activities for profit,” the statement added.