The construction industry is the second highest plastic consumer by sector. Initial findings of key products and packing, waste management routes, barriers and enablers and current best practice on plastic packaging in construction have been compiled in a first report on the ZAP project (Zero Avoidable Packaging waste in construction).
The ZAP project will research and develop scalable solutions to help combat the prevalence of avoidable packaging plastic waste in construction. The funded research will link with real-world construction projects to build case studies and develop training and guidance that will demonstrate the positive actions the whole supply chain and sector can do, helping many organisations reach zero avoidable waste.
In the report, ASBP and project partners, BOST, Cullinan Studio, Mace and Morgan Sindall, present the findings of an initial study and interviews with the supply chain. The aim is to better understand the key types of plastic packaging arising on construction sites and identify opportunities for reduction and better management of them across the construction lifecycle.
Our desktop study found that there are very few initiatives to reduce packaging in construction sector. Publicly declared commitments appear to be limited, though some companies have targets committing them to increasing recycled content. . It was also found that there is a lack of substitute materials – specifically for shrink wrap and straps.
Construction sites are difficult environments to segregate plastic packaging materials and it is common practice for the plastic packaging to be mixed in a general skip, which can lead to contamination, making it harder to process at a waste transfer station.
Additionally to on site barriers, interviews with waste companies suggested that the variety of plastic types in packaging can make recycling problematic.
Opportunities to be more sustainable by following a packaging hierarchy have been identified. In preferred order:
- Elimination by removing packaging altogether (e.g. use of bulk deliveries);
- Reduction (e.g. use of larger pack sizes), optimisation (e.g. light weighting);
- Reuse (e.g. reusable crates);
- Recycling (into new products);
- Recovery (energy from waste); and finally
- Disposal to landfill.
Our next step is to assess and evaluate a number of these opportunities across the construction lifecycle.
The Ecosurety Exploration Fund
The ZAP project has been awarded funding by the Ecosurety Exploration Fund. The fund was first launched in November 2019 with a view to providing a visible funding route for companies, charities, not-for-profits, academic institutions and the public sector working on projects addressing the environmental challenges presented by packaging, batteries or e-waste. Applicants could apply for up to £150k for projects that could be completed over a 12-month period. The fund has now completed and has supported seven projects in total, with some recently reaching fruition including the innovative CellMine and BOSS 2D technologies.