The world’s population is growing, and with it the increasing demand for food and water. Also, more and more countries want to transition to more sustainable food production. Partly because of these developments, countries are striving for self-sufficiency in order to reduce dependence on others and increase food security. Although the corona crisis is turning the world on its head, it is expected that the desire for food self-sufficiency will increase significantly as a result of the corona crisis. A development from which Dutch suppliers of material, technology and knowledge in this field can benefit.
Dutch greenhouse horticulture has a strong position in the global market. In recent years, the export of horticultural greenhouses has increased significantly, with the export value in 2019 resulting in approximately 460 million euros. These greenhouses went to Asia, the Middle East, but also to Europe, where Germany is a major customer.
Plastics are an important component for greenhouse construction. Plastic pipes are not only used for the supply and drainage of water to horticultural greenhouses, but are also used for the irrigation and feeding of crops.
Although the export value of Dutch horticultural greenhouses increased by 22 percent in 2019, the first part of 2020 shows a different trend. The most recent figures, through April 2020, even show a decline in exports in the spring. So the corona crisis has caused a significant dip. However, this decline is expected to be temporary. Before the crisis, countries around the world were already looking to make their food yields more sustainable. In addition, the corona crisis has now made it clear to some countries that they want to become less dependent on others for food supplies. The expectation is therefore that the desire for self-sufficiency has actually increased. A development from which Dutch greenhouse builders and all suppliers who export equipment, technology and knowledge in this field will benefit.
In Vlaardingen, a footpath has been created using floating tubes. This floating construction can move on the water like a raft.
One of the members of Bureauleiding came across this case through a contact. In the area, much of the greenery had been removed and this had a major impact on a number of animals. For example, bats oriented themselves through the felled trees and reeds on the banks. In order to temporarily bring back these points or orientation, the desire arose for a movable construction. Based on the preconditions of this wish, such as the carrying capacity of the footpath, calculations were made for PVC-U and eventually the correct pipe diameter was defined.
The reed beds at the Krabbeplas are partly a compensation for nature in the area that was sacrificed for the construction of the Hollandtunnel, part of the Blankenburg connection. “A lot of reeds will disappear from that spot and we’ll bring them back here, also to guide the bats in this area to their foraging spots”, says Helene Moors of Rijkswaterstaat.
The footpath is expected to remain in place for a total of 2 years.
Plastic drinking water transport pipes and supply pipes made of PVC under streets have been common for more than 40 years. The same applies to PVC drain pipes. The plastic water pipe made its appearance in the Netherlands some twenty years ago. This water pipe for both hot and cold water is indispensable in modern housing. In this article, we will look at the benefits of plastic water pipes.
Plastic water pipes
Drinking water pipes used to be made from lead, but to ensure the quality and safety of drinking water, lead drinking water pipes have not been used since 1960. It is estimated that there are still about 200,000 homes with lead water pipes.
Today’s drinking water pipes can consist of different materials, but not every material is suitable for every application. Material can release certain concentrations of undesirable substances when in contact with drinking water. It is therefore important that the right material is used for each application. The modern plastic pipe systems are mainly produced from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). PVC is the most widely used. This material is relatively hard and is used for the wide main pipes. PE is then used from the main pipeline to the water meter in the house. This material is softer and therefore easier to bend in and around the house. Plumbers install between 25 and 30 million metres of water pipes in homes each year.
Advantages of plastic water pipes for drinking water
Plastic water pipes offer many advantages. For example, plastic pipes have a long technical lifespan (up to > 100 years) and have a lower environmental impact due to leaks and breakages than other materials. In addition, plastic water pipes have many advantages for drinking water. We describe a number of benefits below.
An important application to keep our feet dry in times of climate change is hidden under the ground. Plastic pipe, invisible though it may sometimes be, will play an important role in severe storms, and also in times of drought, according to The European Plastic Pipes and Fittings Association (TEPPFA).
The activities of TEPPFA follow the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. One of those goals is to combat the consequences of climate change. “Our sector offers great products for this”, says General Manager Ludo Debever, of TEPPFA.
Van extreem nat, tot langdurige droogte
Global warming does not just mean an increase in temperature. There will be more and more severe storms that are going to cause massive flooding. At the same time, major periods of drought are predicted due to climate change. These seemingly paradoxical consequences do find a common solution in underground (plastic) applications.
This involves the whole process of collecting large quantities of water and storing it. If done properly, excess water can be stored to make up for shortages in times of prolonged drought. When draining extreme amounts of water during a superstorm, plastic pipes with a diameter of up to 3.5 metres can be used. Add to that infiltration crates, and the water can also be stored under large non-permeable paved surfaces such as parking lots and airports. “This way, we keep our feet dry on the one hand, but we can also ensure that the water is returned to nature in a controlled manner”, states Debever.
Unknown means unloved?
Although there is increasing attention for climate change, it sometimes seems that practical solutions for its consequences are forgotten. Innovations, such as plastic mega-pipes with a large diameter, or systems with infiltration crates, are still far from being used everywhere.
“The factors of people and innovation play a big role here”, Debever believes. Innovations that return as much water as possible to nature will become increasingly important. Irrigation systems, such as those that have been used for some time in southern Europe, are an important part of this. “But people do need to pay attention to this”, Debever believes. “As far as I am concerned, we see that there is still a lot of unfamiliarity with the applications in this area. And with the innovations that are constantly being added in this area.”
Recyclate equivalent to new raw material
Another point that should not be forgotten is that the safe application of plastic pipes based on recyclate is still relatively unknown. In many countries outside the Netherlands, there is still the perception that pipes made from recycled plastic are less robust or safe. Debever thinks that awareness of this will also play a crucial role in the applications that are necessary to deal with the consequences of climate change. “Again, unfamiliarity with the application is an obstacle. Innovation alone is almost never enough”. So make sure that the ‘applicators’ such as sewer workers are also well informed, so that they can choose the right solutions. The Netherlands has had good experience in this field for almost three decades and is keen to share this knowledge. The Dutch tube is provided with KOMO quality mark and therefore meets the standards, regardless of whether or not any recyclate has been used.
Despite all our techniques and innovations, the human element remains very important in these times of great change. Perhaps now, with an overwhelming array of innovations in all sorts of areas, it’s more important than ever to keep the focus on being sustainable with our planet.