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New campaign launched to tackle plastic waste in construction

The Considerate Constructor’s Scheme has launched a campaign to reduce plastic waste after a new survey revealed the environmental impact of construction.

The Considerate Constructor has launched its scheme entitled “Spotlight on… Plastics and Packaging” In light of industry-wide concern over the large amounts of plastic waste often generated by construction work. A survey of 900 people in the British and Irish construction industry found that 95% believe that the industry needs to do something about its use of plastics and packaging.

An even larger number, 98%, said over-use of plastics and packaging was a global issue, 92% believe it is extremely dangerous to the environment, 81% said that the industry is not doing enough to reduce its use of plastics, and 31% of respondents said they often use plastics that cannot be reused or recycled.

The construction industry is the second biggest consumer of plastics in the UK. Much of it is used as a building material, thanks to its low cost and versatility, for insulation, piping, and in paints. However, a lot of the industry’s output comes from the packaging of materials. One survey found that 25% of skips used on construction sites are filled with packaging.

As materials are increasingly being produced offsite, this number could rise. Because plastics are so-long lasting they can remain in a landfill for decades before beginning to break down. When they do begin to disintegrate, they can release harmful chemicals. There has also been a spotlight recently placed on marine plastics, which can be extremely harmful to ocean life. It can be hard to recycle also, as different types of plastics are often mixed or hard to separate.

‘Spotlight on… Plastics and Packaging’ aims to provide practical advice and guidance to firms who wish to reduce their use of plastic. They emphasise that not only does reducing plastics help the environment, but it can also help cut costs, with many companies reporting spending less. Under the campaign, help is provided by:

  • AMA Waste Management;
  • Aztec;
  • Balfour Beatty;
  • Crossrail;
  • Environment Agency;
  • Griffiths;
  • Knight Build; Protec;
  • Right Waste Right Place;
  • Mace;
  • Morgan Sindall;
  • Multiplex;
  • Skanska;
  • Sir Robert McAlpine;
  • Wates
  • Ward.

Edward Hardy, Chief Executive of the Considerate Constructors Scheme said: “While considerable progress is being made – with over 76% of Scheme-registered construction sites setting targets to reduce, reuse and recycle waste – it is clear that a concerted effort to raise further awareness, and to provide the necessary support, is needed to achieve this drastic reduction in waste from plastics and packaging.”

“‘Spotlight on…plastics and packaging’ follows a number of hugely successful industry campaigns which the Scheme hosts on the Best Practice Hub. In 2018, the Scheme launched the ‘Spotlight on…air pollution’ and ‘Spotlight on…the next generation’ with follow-on e-learning courses in each topic. These campaigns have received over 48,000 views to date, with over 50,000 courses being taken.”

Considerate Construction is a non-profit organisation aiming to improve the image and practices of the industry. It urges construction industry staff to care of their community, the environment, and to encourage a safe and positive working environment. It monitors areas of the construction industry that may harm its image. It hosts the Best Practice Hub, an online resource for advice and examples of good practice in the industry.

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