Construction industry must do more to reduce packaging waste, report says

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The ZAP project has released its first report, highlighting that more work needs to be done to reduce plastic packaging waste on construction sites – especially as the industry is the second largest consumer of plastic by sector.

The report identifies a lack of initiatives to reduce packaging in the construction sector, as well as a limited number of publicly stated commitments. Some companies, the ZAP project notes, have targets committing them to increasing recycled content.

A lack of substitute materials was also noted, especially for shrink wrap and strapping.

According to the ZAP project, construction sites are challenging environments for separating plastic packaging materials, with plastic packaging often ending up mixed in a general dumpster, leading to contamination and handling issues at a waste transfer station. .

Interviews conducted by the ZAP project also identified barriers on site, as well as issues related to the variety of plastic types present in the packaging, which makes it difficult to recycle.

According to ZAP, following a packaging hierarchy could see the construction sector become more sustainable. The order is as follows: Elimination by total removal of packaging (eg use of grouped deliveries); reduction (eg use of larger packaging), optimization (eg light weight); reuse (eg reusable crates); recycling (into new products); recovery (energy from waste); and disposal to landfill.

The ZAP project aims to develop “scalable solutions to help tackle the prevalence of avoidable plastic packaging waste in construction”. Project-funded research will be linked to actual construction projects to develop case studies and develop advice and training. According to the project, this will highlight the positive actions that the entire supply chain and industry can take, potentially helping other organizations achieve zero avoidable waste.

The next step for the initiative is to assess a number of these opportunities throughout the construction life cycle.

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