Fantastic Plastic? Part One
Back in February of this year, the Considerate Constructor Scheme, a non-profit independent organisation founded in 1997 by the construction industry to improve its image, launched its campaign to reduce plastic waste in the construction sector. Aptly titled “Spotlight on Plastics and Packaging”, the scheme was partly in response to a survey of construction industry workers, 95% of whom believe that the sector should address the problem of the huge amounts of plastic waste generated by construction work here in the UK. With July being celebrated this year as “Plastic Free July”, a hashtag which has been trending on Twitter, the team at Safety Fabrications decided to take a closer look at this issue.
Over use of plastics is a global issue as plastic waste is the cause of so many serious environmental problems. We’ve all seen the images of veritable “islands” of plastic swirling around in the far-flung reaches of the world’s oceans. We’ve seen photos of dead marine creatures, washed up with bellies full of plastic waste, turtles hampered by plastic waste that has become a noose around their necks, slowly strangling them. Worryingly, recent reports reveal that fish being caught and studied, only to show tiny plastic fibres in their flesh! These are fish that are commonly eaten, so we too are ingesting these tiny plastic fibres. These fibres are released into the oceans along with the waste water from washing our clothing, especially clothing made from synthetic fabrics such as fleece. Miniscule plastic beads that are used in exfoliating shower gels and face-washes have been appearing inside fish and other marine creatures.
Whilst there is a burgeoning need for all of us to reduce our dependency on single use plastics on a domestic level, we need to tackle this problem on an industrial level too if we’re to have any success in the #WarOnPlastic. We should avoid (wherever possible) buying products and foodstuffs wrapped in plastic, using reusable cloth shopping bags at the supermarket. We need to reduce our dependency on shower gels and liquid soaps that come in plastic bottles – going back to bar soap with is a more environment-friendly choice. Find reusable food containers, such as silicon lids which stretch over bowls in a variety of sizes. Choose reusable wraps (made from cotton fabrics impregnated with beeswax) for storing food, use glass jars for storage, instead of the ubiquitous “Tupperware” style boxes. This all takes a certain degree of effort and organisation at first as we make the changes, but we all have a role to play in this fight to save our planet from plastic. If you’re wondering why bother, when the problem seems so widespread, just listen to that icon of broadcasting, David Attenborough, speaking on this subject – he’s passionate about making his point.
Here in the UK, the construction industry is the second largest consumer of plastics, with much of it being used as a long-term building material in the form of insulation, piping and paints. However, the packaging of construction materials accounts for a large portion of the waste produced by construction activity, with one survey revealing that 25% of skips used on construction site are filled with plastic packaging!
Next week, we’ll have more information on the issue of construction industry plastic waste, so be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so that you can join the War on Plastic, both at home and at work.