Construction is responsible for 23% of all plastic produced in the UK

Decades, after it became part of the fabric of our lives, a worldwide revolt against plastic, is underway, and the construction industry should be leading the charge as it produces 23% of all plastic produced in the UK.

Earlier this year the Considerate Constructors Scheme Best Practice Hub published their spotlight on plastic and plastic packing in the construction industry. They highlight some interesting insights about plastic consumption in the UK and the construction industry.

Plastic in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, more than eight billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950’s. Around 60% of that plastic has either ended up in either landfill or the natural environment. David Attenborough brought the catastrophic sights of our oceans into our front rooms and continues to drive home the message that we are at breaking point.

But where did all that plastic come from?

  • The UK alone uses over five million tonnes of plastic every year
  • Only 19% of the plastic used in the UK is recovered or recycled
  • Most families in the UK throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled
  • Shopping convenience holds a huge amount of blame and thankfully there are 9 billion fewer plastic bags used in England since the 5p charge was introduced.

Plastic has a negative impact on the environment because it is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for its production. It’s cheap to produce, versatile and very durable, which has become its downfall as some plastics can take up to 500 years to decompose. Some plastics even release harmful chemicals into the soil and watercourses, another threat to our wildlife and farming.

The construction industry’s plastic waste

The construction industry over the last few decades has become more reliant upon plastic. It’s cheap, lightweight, flexible, resistance to corrosion and chemically inert. These qualities have all led to the construction industry becoming the second largest user of plastic in the UK:

  • The construction industry uses 23%of all plastic produced in the UK
  • 60%of all skipped material by weight is packaging waste
  • Around 25%of construction packaging waste by weight is plastic
  • Piping and conduit are the largest uses of polymers in construction and consume around 35% of production
  • The construction industry produces three times more packaging waste than all UK households combined.

 Tackling plastic waste in construction

Although the problem of plastic usage cannot be solved immediately, we can all do our bit to help. These are some of the measures that we can take during the planning stages of a project and throughout the construction phase that will begin to turn the tide on that frightening 23% of plastic used in the UK.

1.Create a comprehensive site waste management plan for each and every site, not a legal requirement in England, but it is part of the Considerate Constructors Code of Practice therefore standard practice at Endeavour Construction.

2. Only contract with reputable waste management companies. Check that they are responsible in their approach to dealing with waste. Are they operating in a sustainable way? Do they have an environmental policy/commitment that maximises the recovery of reusable materials and minimise the volume that is sent to landfill?

At Endeavour Construction we feel confident with our choice of using Chambers to remove all of our waste from site.  They currently recycle up to 90% of all the waste they handle and are committed to maximising the recovery of reusable materials and minimising the volume sent to landfill.

3. Order products to size and in the quantity that matches the requirements of every project. Work with your designer/architect team to ensure structure spec takes into consideration product sizes available to reduce the number of off-cuts.

4. Order material to site in the order they are needed and not months in advance. This helps to prevent materials sitting around and becoming spoiled or damaged and then being discarded. Don’t accept any poor quality or damaged deliveries and don’t remove any protective packaging until materials are needed. Eradicate over-ordering.

5. Choose products with minimal packaging/ reusable packaging. Request unwrapped deliveries of items that do not need protecting. Specify reusable plastic packaging for products delivered to site. It’s possible to arrange this and negotiate the return of packaging materials delivered to site.

6. Look for more sustainable or recycled building materials; new ones are being created all the time and we have found one with Weinberger. The Wienerberger e4 brick house is a complete housing solution named after its four key founding principles of economy, energy, environment, and emotion. To learn more about Porotherm blocks visit the Wienerberger website

Our fantastic suppliers, Chandlers, wrote a great blog about this environmentally-friendly system that we used at our development at Hawthorn Road, Woking.

By implementing some or all of these measures you will quickly see the benefits beyond just reducing plastic including

  • income generation from collecting and reusing materials
  • reduced costs from purchasing less material and maximising skip space
  • less accidents on-site through correct material storage and a tidy site
  • You will also be helping to reduce C02 emissions and help conserve natural resources.

 

Construction projects should always be designed to avoid waste being produced on-site, where this isn’t possible it’s important to follow the waste hierarchy.

Reduce the amount of waste you create, using waste prevention measures.

Re-use materials to avoid waste being created.

Recycle materials from site where materials cannot be re-used.

Dispose in the correct and legal way

 

Resources used to write this piece

CCS Best Practise Hub, Construction Manager Magazine

Resource Efficient Scotland, Plastic Free, Gov.uk

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