Every small change towards reducing plastic has a big effect on the world – and even if plastic-free construction sounds like a difficult task, there’s many ways to reduce its use!
The UK construction industry typically produces 50,000 tonnes of plastic each year, with a third of waste being sent to landfill.
Some of the biggest contributors to these numbers are plastic packaging, unused materials from overordering and offcuts, improper storage and handling, and workforce food packaging and utensils.
Addressing these issues has benefits beyond the environment – it can also make a huge difference financially! This includes reusing packaging materials, ordering materials in bulk, and sending unrecyclable plastics to waste management contractors.
Since plastic takes so many years to decompose, it actually has great uses in construction when reused, such as in roof tiles, road surfaces and as a replacement for sand in concrete.
Reducing plastic has been a priority for companies for a while now – Mace launched their campaign in 2019 to cut its consumption of single-use plastics by 20% in 12 months, which they achieved.
A suppliers alternative list is now used by all project construction teams, plus operation and facilities management, which is updated every 6 months.
Where single-use plastics are specified, contractors must justify why these products are to be used, and why it can’t be swapped for an alternative.
We can definitely take a lot from these methods, as our dependence on plastics may mean we use them without thinking, but the alternatives are continuously getting better!
We hope one day plastic-free construction will be the norm, but in the meantime, we’ll be using Plastic Free July to consider what best we can do at this point in time, and strive towards greener construction overall.