New environmental policies to tackle water and air quality, plastics and nature
Last week at the State Opening of parliament in The Queens Speech we heard again on the intention of the government to enshrine Environmental principles in law. The Environment is now front and centre stage with new policies to tackle water and air quality, plastics, and nature.
Since Blue Planet, the shocking images of waste and plastic filling our oceans has become fixed in public consciousness. The need to tackle this issue across all sectors is a huge talking point. The Construction sector has a significant role to play.
The role of the Construction sector
Estimates indicate the construction sector is the second-highest producer of plastics, the first being the packaging industry. 50,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste is produced annually with 3.7 million tonnes in the UK. A sectoral approach is a must. I also believe that everyone has a responsibility to make plastic-free a habit.
Creating daily habits is key
Habits are the small decisions you make and the actions you perform every day. According to researchers, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviours on any given day. There are 3 things to making a habit stick – Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behaviour), Routine (the behaviour itself; the action you take), and the Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behaviour).
Last year I committed to taking action to help me go plastic-free. Simple things built into our every-day lives to make them a habit, an everyday behaviour are easily achievable. My new habits include using a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, and shopping bag. Using plastic-free alternatives in the bathroom is easily achieved too. We also no longer use plastic straws and do keep plastic-free in mind when shopping.
Plastic is such a huge part of our society, touching most aspects of our lives whether that be as consumers or as businesses, but taking action either yourself or as a business is absolutely key. As the consumer demand for businesses to be more sustainable and use less plastic grows, businesses who aren’t already doing so will be forced to take action.
A bigger commitment from the Built Environment is necessary
Since the launch of Blue Planet, we have seen companies from Starbucks and McDonalds, Unilever, DHL and KPMG make pledges to either reduce or eliminate packaging from their products and services. However, the commitment from the Built Environment is lacking, given its significant contribution to the plastics waste issue. To date, there are notable commitments from the Canary Wharf Group who announced in 2018 that they would be the first plastic-free commercial centre. Mace are also launching their “Time to Act” campaign to eliminate single-use plastics from its business.
Taking personal action
Personal action is key, but so is leadership and commitment from the sector. It can for some smaller companies feel like an overwhelming task. But there are some small steps that companies can take to begin their journey to reduce plastic usage across sites such as
- ensuring their canteens on sites use real plates and cutlery and compostable take away cartons
- using glass milk bottles instead of plastic bottles
- providing your workforce with sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic and coffee cups
- engaging with you supply chain to provide packaging that has a highly recycled content or provide an alternative to plastic packaging
The CIP Environmental Manual
This manual provides site teams with best practice and ideas to eliminate plastic waste in the construction process, you can subscribe now at https://www.cip-books.com/product-category/environment/environmental-manual/ , there is also some guidance and best practice examples from the CCS and can be found at https://ccsbestpractice.org.uk.
The pace of transformation in the industry
The pace is accelerating alongside the demand for businesses to be more sustainable. As the industry focuses increasingly on modular and off-site construction this also presents a key opportunity for reducing waste during the construction process, with the construction methods that modular and off-site promoting efficient use of building materials, with WRAP estimating that a 90 % waste reduction can be achieved using off-site construction methods.
Whether through voluntary actions now, or through legal requirements in the future, the construction sector must look to tackle its contribution to the plastic waste agenda now. Taking small actions to create daily habits is key. Talking to suppliers, educating your workforce and setting a good example also goes a long way.