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Community and Q&A

Drain Pipes

J S | Posted in General Questions on

I was wondering, what would you all consider to be the “greenest” drain pipes? I’m not doing a plumbing job, but I was just curious.

From what I’ve read online, PVC preforms well, but can’t be recycled, and it could kill you if it burns.Cast Iron preforms well, but can rust eventually. It can be recycled, but has high embodied energy.HDPE supposedly is more eco-friendly than PVC, but I don’t think code will let me install it where I live. The suppliers I’ve looked at only offer MASSIVE pipes as well. ABS I haven’t done much research into yet, but PVC is supposed to preform better? Stainless steel won’t rust, but it needs maintenance to preserve the integrity of the interior, right?

That’s pretty much what I’ve gathered so far. Not much I know. I’m interested to know what you all think.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Don't forget copper (assuming you are making a complete list of options).

    All of these -- PVC, ABS, cast-iron, and copper -- have advantages and disadvantages. There is no clear environmental winner here.

    More information:

  2. Nathan Spriegel | | #2

    While it is true that PVC emits toxic fumes when burned, so will much of the furniture and other building materials. And PVC can be recycled, it just is recycled at a very low rate at the moment. I would expect in the future the recycling stream will widen to accept a greater variety of materials. However if you want it NOW how about using PVC piping MADE from recycled content?
    30% recycled content! I learned about it earlier this week when I noticed a brochure at work with PURPLE colored PVC (for greywater use). And for the squeamish please note the inner and outer layers are virgin material, so no that old sanitary pipe material will not be in contact with your potable water.

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