Construction slows action of plastic waste, report says

Few initiatives to reduce plastic use are underway in the construction industry and its problems are compounded by a lack of substitute materials, according to a report.

The first report from the Zero Avoidable Packaging Waste in Construction (ZAP) project indicates that although construction is the second largest consumer of plastic by industrial sector, little has been done to reduce it.

ZAP said it will try to research and develop ways to help tackle the prevalence of avoidable plastic packaging waste in the industry.

The report says that very few initiatives to reduce packaging in the construction sector could be found, although some companies have targets committing them to using products with increased recycled content.

There was also a lack of substitute materials, especially for shrink wrap and strapping.

Construction sites are challenging environments for separating plastic packaging materials, the report notes, as it is common for plastic packaging to be mixed in a general dumpster, which can lead to contamination and thus make waste more difficult to treat.

The report states that the construction industry should use bulk deliveries, thus involving less packaging, larger packaging and reusable crates. It should also recycle more materials and only then use disposal for waste-to-energy or landfill.

No specific data could be found on what happens to plastic packaging in construction, but some older studies suggest that packaging on construction sites can account for between 5% and 50% by volume of total waste. of a project, with an average of 34% in volume.

Polyethylene film is considered the most commonly used plastic packaging product, including tarpaulins, bags, stretch and shrink wraps and pallet covers.

Reusing packaging is not common, the report says, with only a few examples involving reusable collapsible boxes for mechanical and electrical products and the use of returnable bulk containers for liquids.

The cost of logistics and the possible need for environmental permits were cited as barriers by industry companies interviewed.

Recycled content varied, with some examples as high as 50%, but companies said it was difficult to source plastic packaging with 30% recycled content that would avoid the £200 per tonne packaging tax in plastic.

ZAP has found a few examples of substitution of plastics for other materials and the use of bioplastics is being investigated by a few manufacturers.

The report was produced by the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products and project partners Bankside Open Spaces Trust, Cullinan Studio, Mace and Morgan Sindall.

The ZAP project was funded by the Ecosurety Exploration Fund.

Bryce K. Locke