With their light weight and easy manoeuvrability on site, it’s little wonder that plastic civils and drainage products are growing in popularity. Here, Jamie Pilbin, Regional Sales Director at Keyline Civils Specialist, takes a look at the main benefits of this versatile material, as well as highlighting some of the key guidance around specifying plastic products.


A growing trend


Plastic civils and drainage products offer a number of useful features that are making them increasingly popular as an additional choice to traditional drainage solutions. The main advantage is their weight – as a comparatively lightweight material, plastic pipes, available in longer lengths than traditional materials, can easily be transported to and around site, requiring fewer installers and reducing the need for mechanical lifting equipment. This means pipes can be installed quickly and easily, while also reducing the risk of injuries on site from heavy lifting. What’s more, simple adjustments can be completed relatively easily, with specialist cutting tools not always required - as many plastics pipes can be cut to size using a saw.


Durability is another factor that has contributed to plastic’s popularity. As a flexible material, plastic is able to withstand high levels of ground movement without cracking and is unlikely to shatter if dropped, reducing the risk of leaks or accidental damage.




Plastic products are also growing in popularity thanks to their ability to help contractors meet the environmental obligations of their projects. While single use plastics, such as straws and disposable cutlery, are being phased out of use because of their detrimental impact on the environment, the same is not true of plastic construction materials.


The main reason for this is that many plastic building products contain a high proportion of recycled material and can also be recycled back into the manufacturing chain at the end of their lifecycle. For example, Polypipe – one of our key plastic suppliers – is now one of the UK’s largest processors of post-consumer waste, thanks to the introduction of their processing plant that transforms household plastic polyethylene waste into high quality materials for its products.


Specification guidance and standards


As with any construction material, when specifying plastic civils and drainage products it’s important to check that they comply with the necessary standards, as this will ensure that they are suitable for the intended application. For example, it’s worthwhile checking that any performance claims have been verified by a third party certification scheme, such as the British Board of Agrément (BBA) or the BSI Kitemark.


For specific guidance on plastic drainage solutions, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) Pipes Group has created a reference document which sets out detailed information on product standards for pipes, chambers, manholes and covers.


Markings on pipes should demonstrate compliance with the relevant standard and its scope of use. For example, for pipes to be compliant with BS EN 1401-1 (specifications for pipes, fittings and the system) each product is marked with the area code U or D – in addition to the manufacturer’s information, materials, dimensions and any third party certification. The area code U indicates it is for use outside the building structure, while D indicates it is suitable to be buried in the ground both within and outside the building.


For pipes compliant to BS EN 13476-2 (a three-part standard which identifies requirements for structured wall piping systems including pipes and jointing,) pipe markings include manufacturer’s information, materials, dimensions, ring stiffness and application (area) code.


In addition, the ongoing requirement to install sustainable drainage in new developments and the new Ofwat codes for adoptable sewers that came into force in England from April 2020 - giving mandatory guidance for developers when planning, designing and constructing foul and surface water drainage systems intended for adoption by English water and sewage companies under a section 104 agreement - requires parties at all levels to be aware and compliant with this legislative change. The adoption code is significant and provides the mechanism by which water companies can secure the adoption of a wide range of SuDS components. For the full Design and Construction Code (DCG) document please click here.


Expert advice in branch


Of course, when it comes to advice on choosing the right products for your project, nothing beats talking to a specialist supplier as they will recommend the right solution for your project - whether that be plastic, clay, cast iron or concrete. We’ve seen an increased demand for plastic civils and drainage products at Keyline over the years, which is why we recently opened our first dedicated Keyline Plastics Specialist branch in Gravesend. Supporting other branches in its region, the new branch holds an even wider range of plastic products in stock – covering everything from underground drainage, utility ducting, stormwater management solutions, duct and access chambers, channel drainage, manhole covers and gully grates, geotechnics, service pipes and accessories.


This specialised focus ensures we have a large quantity of each product in stock at all times, meaning sizeable orders can be fulfilled quickly and easily – significantly reducing lead times and facilitating a ‘just in time’ service for our customers. What’s more, for those in need of highly specialist products, we can also arrange for bespoke systems to be manufactured and delivered. We will be opening more Keyline Plastics Specialist branches across the country soon, as part of our strategy to offer a truly specialised national plastics service, on a local level.


Most importantly, the colleagues in our specialist branches will be able to support our local teams in providing the expert advice our customers need to procure the right plastic civils and drainage solutions for their project, when they need them. Click here to find out more about the Keyline Plastics Specialist offering or contact your local branch.