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Greywater piping and ethical material use  RSS feed

 
Posts: 8
Location: Seattle, WA
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I am working on doing more laundry to landscape installations, at the least, and am having a hard time knowing I'm using PVC and yet I do not like it's toxicities and manufacturing.  I've been looking around and found at least these webpages:
https://www.greenpeace.org/…/polyvinyl-…/pvc-free-solutions/
https://www.motherearthliving.com/home-p…/nh-builders-corner

That give some alternatives, but they don't seem great either because it's still an oil product, heavy and expensive, or the likes.  What systems have you used that I may be able to integrate?
I always wonder if I could use bamboo for piping (not pressurized).  It sounds like ABS is "less bad", so I could PVC until I don't need to pressure aspect of transportation.  Is there much of a "dry creek" design or anything that still keeps it subsurface but transports it towards plants?  Any options are appreciated (and photos).
Thank you
 
pollinator
Posts: 596
Location: Southern Arizona. Zone 8b
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Well, a few options occur to me.

#1 Bamboo wouldn't last long and would have to be replaced frequently.  If you grow it yourself and don't mind all the extra work, this is the most environmentally friendly option

#2 use PVC/ABS but keep it as short as possible and use 1-1/4 or 1-1/2 pipe instead of 2", thus minimizing the total mount of plastic.

#3 dig a ditch, line it with bentonite clay & sand and then fill it with rocks (aka french drain).  It would be a lot of work and pretty expensive, but it would be all natural.

#4 make (or perhaps buy if possible) ceramic pipe.  Still a lot of work and pretty expensive, possibly less environmentally friendly than #2 (energy required to fire the clay)  

If bentonite or ceramic clay is not available locally, then you'd also have to consider the pollution incurred by shipping it to your location.

For what it's worth, plastic pipe was the only option that was affordable enough to be viable for me. In the grand scheme the environmental damage caused making the small amount of pipe I used was tiny and more than offset by the benefits of using grey water.
 
gardener
Posts: 2291
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Still resource intensive but less toxic and more idiot proof than clay would be  concrete.
Pipes, homemade or purchased, or a "sluice" with or without a slab covering it.
Bricks and mortar, ferrocement, dimensional lumber screwed together to form a tube or trough,maybe lined with silicone,all of these are possibilities for carrying the greywater away outside, but inside a house, you are pretty much stuck with expensive metallic pipes (copper,cast iron) or cheaper plastic.
The best plastic in terms of not leaching is probably PEXits usually used for potable water.
In drain pipe diameters(1.25" or bigger )it's pretty pricy.
 
author
Posts: 236
Location: Ireland
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Hi Gary, Polypropylene is the obvious alternative to PVC within the plastics available. Other options include minimising the pipe run, reusing off-cuts or clean waste from the construction industry if available... beyond that there are the options mentioned in the posts above: French drains, clay pipes etc.

I'll be interested to see if other ideas emerge here.  
 
master pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Gary.

What's your soil like?

I would look at the spot you're considering for the line, and dig down to see if at any point you reach clay. Make sure you don't have your water transfer material sitting some feet below you, first off.

In some places, just trenching down to the clay layer and smoothing it into a trench shape, then backfilling it with large stones, either slowly decreasing the size of the covering stones, such that they eventually block soil from filling the voids, or covering the large stones with landscaping fabric, can do exactly what you need. If the trench at depth needs further sealing, bentonite clay can be used, as mentioned above.

As in all things permaculture, I would balance what is best with what is most accessible to you now. If the best solution is prohibitively expensive and incurs more carbon costs than, say, using construction materials off-cuts or PVC from the big box store, then it's likely not the best solution for you. Building a well-functioning greywater system that doesn't incur constant maintenance expense is more important, in my opinion, than designing a system that perfectly embodies the ethics.

Personally, I think ethics are the wrong focus here. No, I don't want to use piping made by bloodied children's hands somewhere in a developing country. I don't even want to financially support corporations and industries with which I disagree.

Ethical considerations are important, but only to a point, if your focus is to make the most use of resources passing through your hands (the use of greywater, in this case). I think that as long as the material used isn't directly counterproductive to your interests in its use (toxifying the greywater you seek to use to water your food, for instance), the larger issue of setting up a resilient and self-sustaining system might take precedence over the ethical sourcing of materials. I think toxicity is the more important issue.

I often see people frittering away their time debating the minutiae, worrying over every little detail, and not building up their systems as a result. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

-CK
 
Feidhlim Harty
author
Posts: 236
Location: Ireland
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I'd second Chris' points here. There's so much work that needs to be done to overhaul our society. We can actually only ever do a small amount. My guess is that our current focus on plastic in the world will eventually filter down to our obsession with PVC, and more ecofriendly options will emerge. Good to look, but not to get stopped in the good work you are doing simply because a more eco-friendly alternative isn't yet easily available.
 
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