These are the Days of Our Lives – India Paves the Way for Lead-free Stabilisers

These are the Days of Our Lives – India Paves the Way for Lead-free Stabilisers
These are the Days of Our Lives – India Paves the Way for Lead-free Stabilisers

India is the 7th largest country by area, the 2nd most populous country with 1’368’738’000 in 2019 which is 17% of world population. Human Development Index was considered to be middle in 2018. The total annual water consumption is 761 billion qm which is the highest world-wide but India has only 4% of global water resources. The fresh water availability per capita is 1.125 qm vs 6.000 qm in global average. India ranks number 132 regarding the water availability worldwide. That’s already sad enough but the loss of water in distribution is 40 to 65% and the waste water management is critical.

However, ~1.4 billion people need fresh water everyday. Pipes are necessary for supply. People don’t think about the water after usage. More pipes are necessary for this. Pipes made of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are the optimal choice regarding costs and performance.3’180 kt PVC were used in India in 2018 and ~3’700 kt in 2021. The annual growth of PVC consumption in India is assumed with ~6% Pipes and fitting applications have the biggest marketshare with ~75%. These materials were mainly stabilised with Lead. In 2019 the Indian government announced a draft of a law to limit the Lead migration into water. This is related to several challenges to the manufactures and their supplying industry. PVC pipes are manufactured by extrusion in a variety of dimensions such as solid wall or cellular core construction. More than 2’000 processors manufacturing PVC pipes. Upsurge in the demand for the pipes in the irrigation sector and building and construction industry is the driving factor. New investments in technological pipes like o-PVC (bimolecular oriented), foam core… are adding new segments of the market.

It’s nearly impossible to mention all the publications about the alternatives to Lead stabilisers in PVC. Many of them are published by stabiliser producer to promote their products but also to convince the PVC industry in Europe and worldwide that Calcium-Zinc and Calcium organic stabilizer a realiable technical and commercial solutions. Here are mentioned some independent publications:

Lunde etal. published a sustainability assessment of stabiliser systems for PVC pipes in 2005. They concluded that both Calcium-Zinc and Calcium-organic have the highest potential to become fully sustainable PVC stabilizer. Barth summarised the results of an enormous Round Robin Trial of the German Plastic Pipe Association. Pipes of several converters stabilised with Lead, Calcium-Zinc, Calcium-organic and Tin stabilisers from different sources were tested regarding all properties. The result: All three Lead-free stabiliser systems are suitable technical solutions. Everard etal. considered the metals used in PVC stabilisers under the aspect of sustainability. They found that Lead and Cadmium are toxic but also far away of being sustainable. The European VinylPlus is an inspiring initiative and platform supported by an NGO which reports the progress of the European PVC industry towards sustainability. It’s an initiative giving an example to other areas and plastics.

Cadmium-containing stabilisers were entirely replaced in Europe, under a voluntary, responsible programme driven by the PVC Additives suppliers, since 2001 in EU-15 and 2007 in EU-27. Lead stabilisers were phased out in EU-28 in 2015.

The main stabiliser type used in India was based on Lead with ~80% market share. Calcium-Zinc, liquid mixed metals and Tin was sharing the rest. Calcium-Zinc was either imported or produced by a well known local producer.

The interest of esp. PVC pipe and fitting manufacturers in India in Lead-free stabiliser alternatives started in 2004-2006 and was really limited at this time.

The obstacles of Calcium-Zinc stabilisers were known. Higher dosage of this type of stabiliser and the prices due higher raw material costs plus the missing experience of stabiliser manufacturers prevented this interest of converters. The number of Indian producers for Lead-free stabilisers was more than limited. The technical support by imported materials was difficult because of geographic distance. Last but not least, it’s difficult for a foreign producer to understand the special requirements of Indian technology.

More interest of Calcium-Zinc from local in pipes came up in 2016 and 2017. Renowned pipe producers like:

  • Supreme pipes and fittings
  • Astral Pipes
  • Prince Pipes and Fittings
  • Ashirvad Pipes
  • Finolex Industries
  • Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd.

All of them are producing high quality products in plants with high HSE standards. Trials were successful and went to regular and growing business.

Trusting European technology adjusted to the needs of Indian converters, locally produced with local raw materials whenever the quality it allows  is one of the keys for a successful phase out of Lead. Local leaders for a supply of stabilisers are companies like Platinum Industries Pvt Ltd, Reagens India and Baerlocher India.

The phase out of Lead stabilisers is supported by the Indian government under PM Modi which was published in September 2019 in the Gazette of India.

There is mentioned as following:

  • „1. Short title and commencement.— (1) These rules may be called the Lead Stabilizer in Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Pipes and Fittings, Rules, 2019.“
  • „(2) They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.“
  • “Prohibition of use of lead or lead compounds…“
  • „…(3) The manufacturer of PVC pipes and fittings shall be prohibited to use lead or lead compounds as stabilizer in manufacturing of such PVC pipes and fittings as provided in column (2) of the Schedule, from the date as specified in column (4) of the said Schedule…“.

This limits the migration of Lead into the water. It’s one step in the right direction for a better life, safer working conditions, cleaner environment and more sustainability in India. „The future depends on what you do today.“ (Mahatma Gandhi)

India is a country many religions, languages, cultures with a very long history… The country is so different, diverse, impressing, interesting… comnpared to the rest of the world. This diversity is also found back in the PVC industry. The Indian Vinyl Council [IVC] is established and aiming to follow the European approach of VinylPlus in the entire vinyl value chain. There are so many types of pipes which does not really correlate with European pipe types which might confuse foreigners like:

  • Plumbing pipes
  • Agricultural pipes/Irrigation pipes
  • Pressure pipes
  • Underground pipes
  • Column pipes/Borewell pipes
  • Casing pipes
  • SWR (Sewer) pipes
  • Structured wall pipes
  • Foam core pipes

There are big converters producing high quality products produced in clean, modern factories in India mentioned above but there are also small converters.

The big players are supporting the phase out of Lead stabilisers by:

  • Learning from the European experience and adjusting these to Indian requirements
  • Asking for self audits of their suppliers

Being aware HSE, sustainability and PM Modi’s politic for a better India.