The Climate Change Committee found that 85% of UK buildings are connected to the gas grid. This means 23 million homes have gas transported to them via a network of pipes. It is, therefore, extremely important that sustainable materials are used to make gas pipes. Unfortunately, there has been a recent rise in unsustainable options such as corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST). This is made from stainless steel coated with layers of PVC plastic. The use of two different materials makes it very difficult to recycle, which is harmful to the environment.
Gas pipes can also be made from copper, which is infinitely recyclable and a much better choice for the planet. Copper pipe has been used by plumbers for decades, but what makes it a better choice for the environment and how damaging is CSST?
A more sustainable choice.
When CSST pipes reach the end of their life, they are placed in landfill or burned because they can’t be recycled easily. It would be too labour intensive and, therefore, costly to separate the metal from the plastic coating. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down and should be recycled wherever possible, but PVC is particularly difficult to recycle as it often contains hazardous toxicants. To find out more about why PVC is so toxic, you can see further information at:.
In contrast, copper pipe is 100 percent recyclable and at least 65 per cent of all copper mined is still in circulation. No matter how many times copper pipes are recycled, they retain their value and qualities.
Research has shown that around a quarter of all plastic consumed in the UK is used in the construction industry, so reducing or eliminating plastics in piping would be a major advance, particularly considering that there is a more reliable and sustainable option.
The history of CSST
CSST was developed in Japan and was designed to be flexible so it could withstand earthquakes. It is very thin, so it is susceptible to other types of damage. It is easily punctured by homeowners hammering nails into walls which can cause a gas leak and is thus potentially extremely dangerous. Copper, on the other hand, is strong and sturdy and harder to damage, making it a safer and more reliable option. It is not flammable or toxic and can be recycled over and over again.