Second only to packaging in generating an estimated 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year, it’s clear that plastic is still a big problem for the UK’s construction sector.

Of course, it’s the very thing that makes plastic desirable (it’s durability) which is what also causes the biggest issues. With so much plastic waste ending up in landfill, it can take up to 1000 years for the substance to decompose, during which time it will contaminate soil and oceans, releasing fossil fuels and harmful greenhouse gases.

As 95% of construction professionals agree that the industry needs to reduce its plastic use, in this week’s blog, we’re asking what exactly can be done to kick the plastic habit?

One builder from Merseyside thinks he has an answer!

In 2018, after witnessing the shocking extent plastic pollution during a tour of the Arctic, Neal Maxwell co-founded ‘Changing Streams’, a non-profit organisation which is looking for global scale solutions to this problem.

Teaming up with researchers from the University of Liverpool and Architect, Dr Gareth Abrahams, from the university’s School of Environmental Science, Maxwell has come up with a programme which aims to free the sector of its plastic ties by 2040.

Measures include:

  • Phasing out paint containing plastic.
  • Establishing a ‘traffic light’ guide showing which paints contain plastic to discourage the DIY market from using them.
  • Creating a model, commercially viable, house made without plastic (thereby demonstrating to housebuilders exactly how it can be done).
  • Ending the use of plastic wrapping for building materials such as bricks and cladding.

As well as asking the government to embed this charter within legal regulations, Maxwell’s team are also petitioning pension fund providers which finance construction projects to come on board.

Meanwhile, what can we all do to help?

For a start, here are six ways to reduce plastic waste in construction:

  1. So much of the packaging we throw away could be reduced or re-used. Talk to your supplier to see if they can reduce their packaging or take the packaging back for recycling yourself.
  2. Order in bulk or larger packs wherever possible. This reduces the volume of packaging per item as well as the need for multiple polypropylene bags.
  3. Use re-usable plastic boxes to place and protect materials before returning any packaging boxes to suppliers.
  4. Make arrangements to send any plastic packaging that can’t be recycled to a licensed Waste Management Contractor as they will understand the most responsible ways in which it can be disposed of.
  5. Find a second use for any large sheets of plastic sheeting that arrive as wrapping – e.g. they can be great for weather protection on site.
  6. Encourage workers to take their own food/ drinks with them, using re-usable containers and bottles (rather than the single-use plastic variety).

Here at Sheriff, our environmental policy makes it clear that we need to do everything in our power to protect the environment – minimising waste; seeking responsibly sourced materials; working with suppliers to reduce product, packaging or transport related impacts; re-using and recycling wherever possible; and even hunting out zero wrapper products like hot melt roofing.

We will always do our best to support any measures which specifically help overcome construction’s plastic problem so, if you have any tips about reducing plastic waste on a construction site, please share them with us now on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.


Feature image: Lassedesignen/