I’m talking about gutters and pipes, rather than tabloid newspapers. I’ve been concerned for years that PVC drainware is a) ubiquitous and b) not nice stuff. Is there a better alternative?
PVC is made from chlorine, derived from salt, and ethylene, derived from petrochemicals. So, PVC itself is fairly simple, although I’m not sure I’d like to breathe in during its manufacture. But so far, it’s useless: it needs a host of additives, such as plasticizers and biocides. These aren’t nice – the plasticizers, for example, are phthalates, which have bad effects on boys’ bollocks; cadmium and lead are some other additives. The manufacturing process also creates nasty dioxins.
You won’t find much of this mentioned on plastic manufacturers’ websites, e.g. Plastipedia (the British Plastics Federation), but there’s a disturbing paper on PVC by Greenpeace.
Manufacturing is only the half of it, of course. There’s also disposal. The toxins affect this, too, with phthalate leeching and with dioxins being very difficult to get rid of even by incineration (or is that especially by incineration?). PVC can be recycled, but, as usual, no provision is made for the ordinary person to take their used PVC to a recycling point. Even where council dumps (‘recycling centres’) take rigid plastics, these exclude PVC. Like gypsum, if you, as a private individual, want to get rid of it responsibly, you have to pay a manufacturer to pick it up – so that they can use it and get more money. (I rant elsewhere about plasterboard.) I worry about the dust I create from sawing PVC. It’s a small amount, but still there.
The trouble is, when you need a bit of drainpipe or guttering, you go down the builder’s merchant, and PVC is all you’re offered. You can order alternatives online, from companies such as Marley or Lindab. The former uses aluminium and the latter galvanised steel – both require much energy for their production. They’re more expensive, of course.
There’s a further problem with gutters and drainage, and that is that every manufacturer seems to offer slightly different dimensions, so that a Marley pipe won’t fit a Hunter clip, and so on. If I were to stop using PVC pipe and guttering and go for, say, Marley, I’d have to replace the whole bloody lot, at vast cost – and have to throw away the PVC pipe already cladding the house. This is not green!
The EU needs to stamp on manufacturers: sod the patents; let’s have standard sizes for all manufactured goods such as drainage, phone chargers and lightbulbs.
Back to my drainage problem. I saw lots of wooden gutters when I was on holiday in a small valley in Switzerland. Wooden gutters were formerly used a lot here, too.
I think they’re probably the way forward.