To save money some manufacturers are adding foams, fillers and other additives to resin used to make irrigation tubing. Unfortunately consumers pay for these cost cutting measures without any explanation about the compromise in material. The Irrigation Industry is progressing through rapid changes. Most product and business innovations are helping industry suppliers provide better value for end users. However, not all changes are positive for users of irrigation tubing, emitterline and drip-tapes. With business pressures irrigation manufacturers have been faced with the past few years, (including reduced demand, over supply and investor pressure for increased profits) some companies have been innovating while others have quietly been cutting corners with the raw materials they are using. Many no longer follow engineering standards developed to help growers ensure they have reliably performing products for years to come. Growers previously expect the tubing or emitterline they purchased to irrigate their trees for the life of the orchard. With some products in the market today, this may no longer be the case.
What is happening?
- Foams, fillers, and other additives: Some manufacturers are using foaming agents to create material voids and ultimately use less resin, which reduces production costs. The picture below shows a competitor’s product most likely made with a foaming agent, post-consumer resin or other additives not specifically designed for irrigation tubing. You can see the material voids (holes), resulting in a product that weighs less, and most likely will not have the same performance, and may be more susceptible to environmental stress cracking when used in combination with other fillers or recycled materials.Below is a picture of Jain Irrigation tubing manufactured with virgin DOW chemical resin (no foams, fillers, or recycled resin).
- To see if your tubing, emitterline or drip-tape has been made with a foaming agent or another non-irrigation designed resin, you could simply take a knife and slice the tubing at a 45-degree angle to the tube. And if you see pores or voids, you most likely have a product with one of the above described conditions.
- Recycled plastics are being added: For manufacturers to compete, some choose to utilize a lower cost resin (not designed for irrigation tubing) or recycled resins, either, postindustrial or post-consumer resins. From research, recycled plastics will not have the same performance and long-term life as virgin resin systems designed for irrigation tubing. For further reference and study please visit this Dow webinar or read this article about down-cycling.
- ASABE 435 Standards – 10 years ago, most manufacturers were following and/or forced to follow (by customer requests or requirements) the engineering collapsible pipe standard (ASABE 435) to sell their products on the market. With changes in the competitive landscape, many manufacturers of irrigation tubing have abandoned this standard and are selling product with thinner walls. Compromises such as wall thickness, recycled resins, and the addition of fillers, foams, or other additives, make tubing that cannot meet the standards for performance set out by the 435 standards. There simply is not enough of a safety factor in operating pressure and long term operating and burst pressure performance as with tubing meeting the standard.
What can be done?
If you are an end-user (grower, landscaper, homeowner, etc.) you can ask your dealer the following questions about the manufacturing of the product:
- Did the manufacturer use post-consumer recycled resin?
- Do they use foaming agents and fillers to be able to use less resin in your tubing?
- Have you ever had an environmental stress crack failure and if so how many?
- Did they follow ASABE 435?
- Was testing completed concerning carbon content for UV sun protection and are the records available?
- Which resins were used (am I buying)?
The good news is that you do not have to settle for a sub-standard product. Jain Irrigation does not use foams, fillers, post-consumer, or post-industrial resins. We utilize DOW fingerprint virgin resin along with the best carbon black materials run in the best extrusion equipment in the industry while following the ASABE 435 standard. We sell this at a competitive price, while having a 10-year warranty against environmental stress cracking. Because our company has never had a stress crack warranty failure, we were the first to offer the 10-year warranty (others are now following), you can expect our tubing and emitterline to last for the life of the orchard. As an informed consumer (grower or home owner) you can specify or request the best for your orchard.
Lastly, you may say, why should I care about these details, if I have a good warranty? Across the Irrigation Industry, warranties against environmental stress cracking range from 5-10 years for irrigation tubing and emitterline. I would recommend asking, who is warrantying the product? Will this company be in its current form and have the ability and willingness to honor the warranty or will you be dealing with a new owner in a business that has significantly changed. And, if none of this matters to you as the purchaser of the product – you may finally ask yourself, why has there been a lack of transparency and honesty in what goes into this product (like in other plastics industries)? Has a manufacturer been cutting corners on materials (which ultimately may lead to poorer performance) and have not been forthcoming with these details and making more money at my eventual expense?
The Irrigation industry is changing every day and here at Jain we want to help you understand by increasing your awareness so that you can ask questions of your dealer about the products that you are installing and expecting to last for the life of your orchard.