Worldwide demand for plastic pipe will reach 4.6 billion meters - or nearly 3 million miles - by 2003, estimates the industrial-market research firm The Freedonia Group. Plastic will gain favor over other materials because of its light weight, corrosion resistance and low cost of installation. The biggest increase is expected in high-density polyethylene pipe, with growth of 7% a year to a total in 2003 of 2.4 million metric tons. HDPE will be used in small-diameter pipe in natural-gas transmission, as conduit for electrical and telecommunications applications and as corrugated pipe for drains and sewers.

Polyvinyl chloride is presently the plastic pipe resin in widest use globally, accounting for about 75% of all plastic pipe by weight.

Freedonia attributes the market expansion to a rebound in construction markets in Asia. Demand will slow down in the North American market, which saw the greatest growth during the years 1993-1998.