Plastics Pipe Institute celebrates 70 years

The Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI) is celebrating its 70th year. Formed in 1950 as the Thermoplastic Pipe Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), PPI is now the leading North American trade association representing all segments of the plastic pipe industry, and is known for its research, its work to develop industry standards and codes, advocacy and education.

“Since the very beginning, PPI has provided the vision and the leadership that has produced the establishment of uniform test and design criteria that became the foundation for all current applications of plastics piping,” stated PPI President David Fink.

“PPI created the methodology for rating the long-term strength of pipe materials plus the concepts of pipe pressure rating, the establishment of standard dimensional ratios and the adoption of numbers to state those properties. Our association staff and members also engineered the first code acceptances for plumbing, industrial, commercial and gas distribution applications for plastics piping, and provided the first industry-wide statistics. Today, that work continues and includes telecommunications conduit, corrugated drainage pipe, along with pipe used in potable water, forced main sanitary sewer systems and building and construction projects.” 

In 1950, when the group was first formed as the Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association, plastic pipe was still in its infancy, having been developed during World War II as a way to insulate radar cables. Solid-wall high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe began replacing metal pipe in oil- and gas-gathering systems in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s, gas utilities started replacing failing iron pipe with polyethylene (PE) pipe, and because of its successful performance history, 95 percent of all new gas distribution systems installed today use PE pipe. A few years later, corrugated HDPE pipe started to replace clay pipe in agricultural drainage systems. In the late 1980s, large-diameter corrugated HDPE pipe began to replace metal and concrete in storm water culverts. The material has continued to evolve into what is now its third and fourth generation of development, each with improved performance capabilities.

David Fink, President, Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc.

“PPI has always been ‘member-run, member-led,” Fink stated. “The continuing success and growth of our association is a direct result of the enthusiastic work by those members. One indication of how our members view their association can be determined by the many people who have participated for several decades.” 

Frequently, PPI presents its Lifetime Achievement Award to a member who provided exceptional devotion and dedication to the industry. Jim Craig was honoured in 2013 for his 40 years of service to the industry and said, “I am proud to be a lifetime member of PPI. It is a great organisation with a super staff to help the members accomplish great gains in the plastic pipe markets. I joined PPI in the 1980s, while working for McElroy Manufacturing in Tulsa, OK. I quickly learned that this organisation was great at getting people and organisations together to grow the PE industry in general. We had pipe manufacturers, resin manufacturers, fitting manufacturers, joining manufacturers and distribution organisations take on projects, do testing, and develop technical notes and reports with everyone working together to accomplish our goals.”

“Unfortunately, Jim passed away soon after providing his thoughts about PPI,” explained Fink. “His contributions and devotion to PPI and the industry is his legacy that will always benefit others.” 

Another Lifetime Member, George Zagorski, now retired from Blue Diamond Industries (Lexington, KY), offered, “I was a somewhat “reluctant” young volunteer when Blue Diamond first joined PPI some 15 years ago.  What I discovered was likeminded professionals, who would debate and cooperate for the betterment of the overall plastic piping industry.  Along the way, my voice was always heard and considered.  In the end, I’ve developed not only professional relationships, but lifelong friendships.” Zagorski also served on the PPI Board of Directors from 2011 to 2017 as vice chair, chair and past chair plus numerous other committees and task groups.

In 1963, Phillips Petroleum, the company that brought a new manufacturing process to the industry for making HDPE and discovered how to make polypropylene 1951, now another popular pipe resin, and in 1963 established its pipe division, Driscopipe, which is now known as Performance Pipe. Harvey Svetlik, another long-time PPI member who started his career with Phillips Driscopipe and recently retired from PPI-member company Georg Fischer Central Plastics LLC, said, “PPI is the leader in the polyolefin pipe industry specifically and in the plastic pipe industry generally. PPI is not so much about what it has accomplished in the past, as it is about our polyethylene brotherhood and our commitment to future accomplishment.

“We have watched the industry grow from using 80 million pounds in 1980 to almost a couple of billion pounds annually for all its applications and all its pipe types. The next 40 years will witness a doubling yet again, as polyethylene pipes and fittings take their place as a dominant leak-free system in the drinking water sector. The North American population will double in this timeframe, creating the demand, along with the need to replace half of existing water distribution pipes due to their deterioration.  PPI has led and will lead the market in plastic pipe technology, standards, and associations.” Svetlik received his PPI Lifetime Membership in 2019.   

In 1975 the Corrugated Polyethylene Tubing Association was created. Later known as the Corrugated Polyethylene Pipe Association it became the Drainage Division of PPI in 2019. It focuses on the use of corrugated pipe that can be found up to 60 inches in diameter for stormwater and gravity sewer systems. “The members of this division are some of the largest users in the United States of recycled plastic,” Fink said. “One company processes more than 550 million pounds of post-consumer recycled plastics for its pipe products. Keeping this large amount of material out of landfills is possible because of the growing demand for this type of pipe.” 

In 2011, PPI bestowed an Honorary Lifetime Membership on Drainage Division member James Goddard, P.E. recognising his more than 30 years of contributions and industry innovations. Goddard retired from Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. (ADS) as the company’s Chief Engineer.

“Now with a uniform, consistent voice, PPI and specifically the Drainage Division, can go out to federal agencies such as the U. S. Department of Transportation, EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, and others plus state agencies, such as Departments of Transportation, as well as significant organisations such as AASHTO with a common voice technically and that has helped the industry to grow and prosper and has significantly benefited our nation.” 

Fink and his organisation foresee increased use for plastic pipe. “The trend to create more applications along with enhanced grades of resin and even new resins continues to accelerate at a rapid rate,” he stated. “And we fully expect this continue for the next 70 years. PPI’s first 70 years has been an exciting journey.”