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Home Tradesman Insights Going ‘plastic-free’ in the construction industry

Going ‘plastic-free’ in the construction industry

The construction industry is a major contributor to plastic waste, with an estimated 50 tonnes of plastic packaging waste generated each year in the UK alone. As the second-largest consumer of plastic in the country, the sector faces significant challenges in reducing its environmental impact. 

However, with innovative solutions and a commitment to sustainability, construction companies can pave the way for a plastic-free future.

Why is reducing plastic waste in construction crucial?

Plastic waste is one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. The construction industry’s reliance on single-use plastics and packaging contributes to the growing problem of plastic pollution, which has far-reaching consequences for our ecosystems and wildlife. 

Some key reasons to address plastic waste in construction include:

  • Environmental impact: Plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, contaminating soil and water in the process.
  • Health concerns: Some plastics, such as PVC, can release harmful chemicals during production and disposal.
  • Landfill burden: 40% of plastic packaging used on construction sites ends up in landfills, contributing to the waste crisis.
  • Resource depletion: The production of virgin plastics relies on finite fossil fuel resources, which are rapidly depleting.

By reducing plastics in construction, the industry can minimise its environmental footprint, protect public health, and conserve valuable resources for future generations.

What are the challenges in going plastic-free?

Despite the urgent need to address plastic waste, the construction industry faces several challenges in transitioning to plastic-free practices:

  1. Lack of alternatives: Many construction materials and products rely on plastic materials for their durability, water resistance, and low cost.
  2. Resistance to change: Some stakeholders may be hesitant to adopt new materials and practices due to concerns about cost, performance, and familiarity.
  3. Supply chain complexities: The construction industry’s complex supply chains can make it difficult to trace the origin and composition of materials.
  4. Regulatory barriers: Building codes and standards may not yet recognise or approve alternative materials, hindering their adoption.

Overcoming these challenges will require collaboration, innovation, and a willingness to embrace change on plastic usage across the industry.

How can construction companies reduce plastic waste?

There are several strategies that construction companies can implement to minimise plastic waste and move towards a plastic-free future:

Conduct a plastic audit

The first step in reducing plastic waste is to understand the scope of the problem. By conducting a thorough audit of plastic use throughout the construction process, companies can identify opportunities for reduction and substitution.

Embrace the circular economy

The circular economy model aims to keep materials in use for as long as possible, minimising waste and resource depletion. Construction companies can adopt circular practices by:

  • Using recycled and recyclable materials
  • Designing for disassembly and reuse
  • Implementing take-back schemes for end-of-life products

Seek out sustainable materials

Innovative, eco-friendly materials are increasingly available as alternatives to traditional plastics. Some examples include:

  • Biodegradable insulation made from natural fibres
  • Recycled plastic lumber for decking and fencing
  • Hempcrete and other plant-based building materials

By exploring these alternatives, construction companies can reduce their reliance on virgin plastics and minimise waste generation.

Optimise packaging and delivery

Packaging is a significant source of plastic waste in construction. Companies can reduce this waste by:

  • Working with suppliers to minimise packaging
  • Using reusable or recyclable packaging materials
  • Implementing just-in-time delivery to avoid excess inventory

Educate and engage stakeholders

Reducing plastic waste requires buy-in from all stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, and clients. Construction companies can foster a culture of sustainability by:

  • Providing training on plastic-free practices
  • Communicating the benefits of reducing plastic waste
  • Recognising and rewarding sustainability efforts

By engaging stakeholders at every level, companies can drive lasting change and demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Tradesman Saver: Supporting your plastic-free journey

The journey towards a plastic-free construction industry is not without its challenges, but the benefits are clear. By reducing plastic waste, the sector can minimise its environmental impact, protect public health, and conserve valuable resources for future generations.

At Tradesman Saver, we understand the challenges that construction professionals face in reducing plastic waste and adopting sustainable practices. That’s why we offer comprehensive insurance coverage tailored to the needs of tradespeople, starting at less than £54* per year.

Our policies provide protection for a wide range of trades, including builders, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and more. With Tradesman Saver, you can have peace of mind knowing that your business is covered as you navigate the transition to a plastic-free future.

To learn more about how Tradesman Saver can support your sustainability efforts, visit our website or speak to our knowledgeable team today.

Tradesman Talk

What steps have you taken to reduce plastic waste on your projects? Have you discovered any innovative materials or techniques that have helped you minimise your environmental impact?

Share your experiences, tips, and insights in the comments below.

Dean Laming

Dean Laming is a Chartered Insurance Broker with more than 25 years insurance experience. Through various underwriting, operational and management roles, Dean has built up extensive knowledge of how to run a business and is now Managing Director of Tradesman Saver, part of the wider Henry Seymour Group.

All articles by Dean Laming

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