Did you know that the construction sector accounts for almost a quarter (23%) of the total plastic consumed across the UK? Whilst plastic is reliant due to its cheapness, durability and water-resistance – this is also part of its demise. The resilience of plastic means it can take up to 1000 years to decompose. And whilst it degrades, it contaminates our soils and oceans with the release of fossil fuels and greenhouse gases.
To help raise awareness, Insulation Express Insulation Express have uncovered the practical solutions the construction sector can utilise to reduce their plastic footprint.
40% of Plastic Waste from UK Construction is Sent to Landfill
Annually, 50,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste is produced by the UK’s construction sector. That’s four times the weight of the Brooklyn Bridge – all to create single-use plastic packaging.
Much of that waste is incinerated, adding toxic fumes to the air we breathe. Unfortunately, it gets much worse, too; 40% of the plastic is placed in mixed waste skips. As it would take too long to through the skip, it is never recycled, and instead ends up in landfill. In total, 20,000 tonnes of construction’s plastic is sent to landfill – a weight that is twice as heavy as the Eiffel Tower.
Comparatively, Germany is on the other end of the scale. They recover and recycle a huge proportion of the plastic waste in construction. Every year, they generate around 201.8 million tonnes of waste in construction and demolition, but around 90% of that is recycled. 80% of the plastic waste is recycled.
5 Ways Construction Can Reduce Their Plastic Packaging Waste
It is clear that the amount of plastic being sent to landfill is not sustainable for either the environment or construction.
Most of the industry realises something needs to change, with 95% of construction professionals admitting that the industry needs to reduce plastic use. But, how can this be achieved?
- A huge proportion of packaging thrown away can often be reused. Talk to your supplier to see if they can reduce their packaging or take back the packaging to recycle yourself.
- Try and order your productions in bulk or larger packs. This will cut the volume of packaging per item and reduce the need for multiple polypropylene bags.
- Use reusable plastic boxes to place and protect materials – before returning the boxes to the supplier.
- For the plastic packaging that can’t be recycled, send it to a licensed Waste Management Contractor. They are best placed to decide their destination.
- Use large sheets of plastic sheeting that arrived as wrapping for use on site as weather protection.
What Does the Future Hold for Plastic in Construction?
The construction sector still needs plastic – as previously mentioned, it’s durable, waterproof and lasts long. However, the industry needs to focus on reducing its single-use plastic, especially its packaging waste. Additionally, in the future we may see a massive take up of alternatives to plastic in construction, as some of these are already being developed and trialled. But for the average construction professional, you can reduce plastic use by talking to your supplier, educating your workforce and setting a good example to employees.