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Construction: how can we reduce our reliance on plastics?

The negative impact of plastic waste on our environment is more noticeable than ever. In response, there are various strategies and goals in place across the world to heavily decrease the amount of plastic we consume. The government sets out its goal of eradicating all unnecessary plastic waste by 2042 in its publication, A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment.

Just in the UK, over five million tonnes of plastic is used every year. Responsible for close to a quarter of this, the construction industry generates approximately 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually.

Considering this vast level of waste, the construction industry crucially needs to reduce its reliance on plastics.


How could the construction industry limit plastic use?

  1. Plan with the circular economy in mind – throughout its planning process, the construction industry needs to consider how to dispose of waste, whether it be spent building materials or packaging. Certain products are notoriously difficult to dispose of, such as traditional polyurethane foam insulation systems. On the other hand, lime render and woodfibre natural insulation systems have an easier and eco-friendlier disposal process.
  2. Use natural alternatives – products that have recyclable components and packaging, or using materials like wood, lime and woodfibre, are not only eco-friendly, but are much simpler to dispose of than plastic.
  3. Properly dispose of waste – while construction waste is unavoidable, how you choose to dispose of it can either harm or help the environment. Recycling everything you can is crucial, and advice on a material recyclability can often be given by the suppliers if you’re uncertain.


The positives of limiting plastic consumption

  1. Natural alternatives are healthy in use and disposal – natural alternatives are easier to dispose of than plastics, and many are fully biodegradable. Unlike plastics, natural substitutes contain safe and harmless polymers, so they don’t give off toxic fumes when used or disposed of.
  2. Natural alternatives are not weaker – the stability, strength and weather-resistant properties of plastics are also present in natural alternatives.
  3. Conserve our fossil fuel reserves – our fossil fuels are depleting at a troubling rate and plastic manufacturing requires huge amounts of them. By using sustainable materials, we can reduce damage to the environment and lessen our fossil fuel consumption.
  4. Reduce toxic fumes in the atmosphere – many toxic fumes released into the atmosphere result from the incineration of used plastics. Through reducing the construction industry’s plastic waste, we can limit carbon and toxic fume emissions.
  5. Decrease plastic in landfills – by recycling and properly disposing of plastics, we can minimise the amount that is sent directly to landfill.


What is the future of plastics?

  • Growth of hybrid materials – while we may never completely eliminate plastic use in the construction industry, there could be a broader focus on hybrid materials that only use a very small amount of plastic. These would mostly comprise of around 95%+ natural materials.
  • Sustainable plastics will be widely adopted in construction – future plastics will likely be developed to be eco-friendly. This may involve a restoration of current plastics to ensure they are 100% recyclable. Additionally, plastics could be utilised for more purposes, including plastic roads or plastic concrete, for example.
  • Use of bioplastics – bioplastics reduce the need for fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gasses. While many of these plastics are already in use for packaging, there will likely be bioplastics created for the construction industry as a substitute for traditional plastic building materials.

For advice on how natural alternatives can help you limit your plastic use, get in touch or call 01952 728 611.

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To help you on your way, we also offer training, and can put you in touch with a wide network of system-trained installers.

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