Thursday, March 3, 2016

Save the Environment Using PVC Pipes

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How can PVC pipes solve the hunger in the Philippines and save the environment? It seems a farfetched and impossible idea, doesn’t it? Given that there are harmful effects of PVC products or plastics in general.

PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride belongs to thermoplastic resins and is a type of polymer made from VCM (vinyl chloride monomers) through polymerization (Vinyl Environmental Council (VEC)). PVC could last up to 35 years without any signs of deterioration and its durability is the same as new pipes (Japan PVC Pipe & Fittings Association). VEC adds that it is resistant to acid, alkali, almost all inorganic chemicals and organic solvents.

The durability and chemical resistance of PVC pipes can be used in environmentally-friendly projects. Here are a few examples:

Coral Tree Nursery

The Philippines is a coastal country surrounded by bodies of water and belongs to the famous Coral Triangle.  Although coral reefs cover only 0.2% of our oceans, it is the home of 25 million marine fish species (Defenders of Wildlife). Annually, it could generate US$ 2.4 billion in the Southeast Asia (World Resources Institute (WRI). Did you know that in our country alone the total economic value of our reefs is estimated US$ 1.6 billion annually (WRI)?  Only if this is true.

In the paper entitled “The Economics of Worldwide Coral Reef Degradation” published by Cesar Environmental Economics Consulting (CEEC), the damage to world’s reefs is estimated 27% and if this continues for the next 30 years 60% of it will be destroyed.

How can we prevent this from happening? Plant a coral nursery out of a “tree”! This is the solution Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) developed which they launched last 2010 and named it the Coral Tree Nursery®. How does it work? “It is a simple framework of PVC pipe that resembles the shape of a tree. The nursery tree is tethered to the ocean floor and buoyed with a subsurface float. Coral fragments were hung from the branches of the tree using monofilament line,” explains CRF.

After six to nine months, they removed it from the nursery, tagged it, and attached it directly to a local reef using an underwater adhesive. Through these efforts, more fishes can be produced for human consumption.


It is a fusion of two practices. Aqua- or Aquaculture “refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals (in this case fishes) in all types of water environments” (NOAA Fisheries). While, -ponics, from the word Hydroponics “is the growing of plants in a soil-less medium, or an aquatic-based environment” (Growth Technology).  When these two are combined they form a symbiotic-like relationship as shown in the diagram below:

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The fishes you can harvest in this type of setup are tilapia, catfish, trout, Koi, and goldfish. This is the advantage of home fish farming; you can eat your own fish in an organic way.  It uses 90% less water than traditional gardening and we did mention it requires no soil, right?  Aquaponics can be set up in parking lots, abandoned warehouses, schools, restaurants, homes and garages (Mother Earth News).

This was the project of Bahay Kubo Organics in Payatas which started in 2013. They built it using fish tanks, recycled plastic containers, PVC pipes, gravel or rocks, and metal bars. It is maintained by “Fairplay for All” charity and they grow pechay, cherry tomatoes, arugula, asitava, broccoli, and tilapia (Rappler). It also helps feed poor children in the center.

It may not only solve the hunger problem we are currently suffering. This setup is applicable to urban areas like Manila, which lacks soil. It also uses only 2% water that traditional farming uses (Aquaponics Blueprint).

Back in the time of our ancestors, vegetable patches in the backyard of a house are a common sight. Living is simple and mundane, but sustainable. Now, we could revive that again through aquaponics with the fishes as a bonus. We could put food on our plates and it could be a source of livelihood, too.

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