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Cost, resources and sustainability


Is it always best to use renewable resources?

It seems obvious that using renewable resources is always better than using non-renewable resources such as oil and gas.

Is this always the case?


Household water supply

Houses need to be supplied with clean drinking water and have their waste water taken away for sewage treatment.

PVC pipes can be used to supply water and also remove wastes.

Traditional materials for these pipes include cast iron and stoneware (made from clay).

PVC pipes being used to replace iron water pipes.

The table compares PVC with traditional materials over a 50 year lifetime.

Which do you think is the most sustainable?

The PVC seems more sustainable even though it uses oil and gas in its production. PVC is more affordable and using recycled material would help even further.



PVC pipes

Iron and stoneware

Energy used



Carbon dioxide produced
(tonnes CO2)



Cost per house




Environmental savings with non-renewables


Using PVC water pipes:

Saves £500.

Which can be used to fit better insulation.

Over 50 years this will:

Save 169 GigaJoules of energy
Cut CO2 emissions by 9.8 tonnes



Using non-renewable resources could benefit the environment.

PVC pipes save nearly £500 per house. This can be used for better insulation to reduce the amount of energy the house uses.

Less energy means that less oil and gas is used to generate electricity and for heating.

Using the oil and gas to make PVC pipes could actually save non-renewable resources in the long term.