Fantastic Plastic? Part Two

Fantastic Plastic? Part Two

16th July 2019

In one of our articles last week, we drew our readers’ attention to the construction industry’s scheme to play a significant role in the fight against climate change by reducing the amount of plastic we throw away.  The construction sector is the second largest consumer of plastic here in the UK and, whilst a lot of that plastic is being used as construction materials in the shape of piping, insulation, paints, etc., a huge portion of this ( a massive 50,000 tonnes annually) is packaging, single use plastics which need to be disposed of.  The disposal of single use plastic is causing environmental problems across the globe, both on land and in the oceans and it’s a problem that we all must play a part in helping to solve.  This is why the Considerate Constructors Scheme launched a campaign, “Spotlight on Plastics and Packaging” as part of the construction industry’s response to the problem.  We will only win the #WarOnPlastics if we change habits and behaviours, so let’s take a look at what we can do in the construction industry to combat plastic waste.

Currently, 40% of waste from building sites ends up in landfill, most of this waste is:

  • Plastic packaging (which accounts for 25% of packaging waste in construction activities)
  • Unused materials from over-ordering and offcuts
  • Improper storage and handling
  • Workers’ food packaging and utensils

However, a little effort and changes in behaviour mean that the amount of plastic sent to landfill could easily be reduced.  Here are just a few changes that could be made:

  • Order materials in bulk where possible to reduce the amount of packaging needed
  • Store materials in reusable plastic boxes and buckets
  • Reuse large plastic sheet packaging as dirt or weather protection
  • Use a licensed contractor to remove plastic that cannot be recycled

Taking a sustainable approach to the use and disposal of plastic will not only benefit the environment, it can have financial benefits for construction companies too.  Reusing plastic packaging sheets as protection against dirt or the weather can help reduce the costs of clearing and handling waste.  This may also reduce the cost of skip hire and the fees and taxes charged to use landfill sites. 

You may be interested to learn that some plastic waste is now being recycled into construction materials, a welcome development.  We reported last year on an innovative initiative in Mexico in which discarded plastic waste is being recycled into plastic roof and wall panels in order to provide affordable homes for low income families.   A UK-based company has come up with a novel recycling solution for babies’ nappies – it’s recycling them into roof tiles!  In recent years, we’ve also seen plastic being recycled as an alternative to asphalt for road surfaces and as a replacement for sand in concrete.

What are you doing about the plastic waste generated by your construction activities?  We’d be really interested to know about other efforts being made, whether they are large-scale or small.  Why not let us know by posting your comments on our Facebook Page or Twitter feed?