The two major trade groups representing polymer pipe producers have been extolling the benefits of their non-corroding products for decades as they compete against each other and pipe materials that have been around for more than a century.
The directors of the Plastics Pipe Institute and the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association said they welcome the American Chemistry Council's effort to spur debate about what they see as outdated procurement policies and bidding specifications that protect legacy pipe products at the expense of taxpayers and innovative infrastructure.
"The ACC has the wherewithal to give us a stronger voice," Tony Radoszewski, president of the Plastics Pipe Institute, said in a telephone interview. "The ACC brings its reputation, political clout, and financial and human resources — they have boots on the ground — to give a voice that heretofore we may not have had the opportunity to express."
The message is simple: If a city, township or village receives state funds for pipe or any product, all the products that meet engineering requirements should be allowed in the bidding process.
"We call it fair and open competition. That's all we're asking for," Radoszewski said. "We're not forcing anyone's hand to use a product. We're not saying one product is better than another. We're saying at least allow the materials to compete."
Based in Dallas, PPI has 150 members that are mostly manufacturers of polyethylene pipe, which dominates oil-and-natural-gas gathering applications with its heat-fused, leak-free joints. PPI estimates PE pipe has about 15 percent of the sanitary sewer market and 8 percent of the potable pipe market in the United States. In Europe, however, PE is the No. 1 pipe material used in water systems.
PVC and ductile iron pipe are the major materials being installed in U.S. water and sewer systems, according to Bruce Hollands, executive director of the PVC pipe association, which also is based in Dallas and has about 45 business members and affiliates.
Hollands hopes ACC's effort raises awareness about plastic pipe in the northern Midwest and the Northeast — "areas where you have the most iron-only specification" — and challenge the "conservative bent" of civil engineers only comfortable with traditional materials.
"Think of it this way: If you were putting in a phone system, would you use telephone poles or go with a cellular network?" Hollands asked.
He isn't worried that question will be answered with PE pipe or any product but PVC.
"We're very confident of where our material stands in the mix," he said. "We have no problem competing with all materials."