Plastics Pipe Institute Celebrates its 70-Year Journey

The Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI) is celebrating its 70th year as the institute reflects on its history. 

The institute was established in 1950 as the Thermoplastic Pipe Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), PPI is now a 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,” said 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,” he said. “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.

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 and in 1963 established its pipe division, Driscopipe, which is now known as Performance Pipe. 

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.

Fink and his organization 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,” Fink said. “And we fully expect this continue for the next 70 years. PPI’s first 70 years has been an exciting journey.”

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