The global plastic pipes market is benefiting from the growing acceptance of large diameter plastic pipes in infrastructure applications such as drainage, sewer and water transmission, says South African Plastic Pipe Manufacturing Association (Sappma) CEO Jan Venter.
“Water distribution and sewage disposal in particular are two areas where we are seeing a growing demand for high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes.”
Venter says according to a report by Global Industry Analysts Incorporated, the growth is driven primarily by replacement demand for piping materials in sewer and utility pipe networks, the launching of new material compositions and growth in public infrastructure spending in developing markets.
“There is still good potential to grow the market share at the cost of other materials, owing to the inherent benefits of PVC and HDPE piping systems. “This includes the ability of some materials enabling larger diameters and higher pressures.”
Venter notes that the potential for strong recovery in the plastic pipes industry is great, provided that sensible decisions are made at government level. “We have heard talk about proposed plans to upgrade pipe networks that have reached the end of their useful life, or those pipelines that are currently inadequate. “If these plans are executed and promises made are fulfilled, it will hold significant growth prospects for the industry.”
Venter explains that Sappma’s main focus is to create consumer confidence within the plastic pipes industry and to promote the production and the use of high-quality plastic pipes and pipes systems.
He emphasises that only members that meet Sappma’s strict quality standards are allowed to display their logo on their pipes, thereby clearly differentiating quality pipes from substandard productions.
“As an industry, we are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure the future of the plastics pipe industry through maintaining excellent quality and adhering to industry standard.”
There are issues in the local plastic pipes industry with plastic pipes manufacturers eager to take short-cuts and compromise on quality, as well as labour issues, skills shortages and work ethic as the biggest challenges, says Venter.
He says another challenge facing plastic pipes producers is the need for modernising their production equipment by investing in new machinery for better efficiency.
However, Venter points out that it is hard to motivate such a much-needed investment if the demand for the product is low. “This could have a negative impact on the entire industry and prevent us from being competitive and in step with international developments.”
He notes that the high cost of electricity in South Africa has a crippling effect on the plastic pipes industry’s role-players, and there is a growing concern that electricity supply could again become an issue if the industrial and mining demand in the country increases.
While there are new markets and opportunities emerging for the plastic pipes industry, Venter mentions that government and decision-makers have to stop making empty promises when it comes to improving the country’s water infrastructure.
“We hope the current water crisis that is staring our nation in the face, will galvanise action at government level, despite the difficult economic and market conditions facing South Africans, the future also looks optimistic for local plastic pipes manufacturers,” Venter concludes.