Construction industry must reduce packaging waste, report finds

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 highest plastic consumer by sector.

Bricks and wood waste at a construction siteThe report identifies a lack of initiatives to reduce packaging in the construction sector, alongside a limited number of publicly declared commitments. Some companies, the ZAP project notes, do have targets committing them to increasing recycled content.

A lack of substitute materials was also found, specifically for shrink wrap and straps.

Construction sites are difficult environments to segregate plastic packaging materials, the ZAP project says, with plastic packaging often ending up mixed in a general skip, leading to contamination and problems with processing at a waste transfer station.

Interviews conducted by the ZAP project also identified on-site barriers, as well as issues pertaining to the variety of plastic types present in packaging – making them difficult to recycle.

Following a packaging hierarchy could see the construction sector become more sustainable, says ZAP. The order is as follows: 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 disposal to landfill.

The ZAP project aims to develop ‘scalable solutions to help combat the prevalence of avoidable packaging plastic waste in construction.’ The project’s funded research will link with real-world construction projects to build case studies and develop guidance and training. This, the project says, will highlight positive actions that the whole supply chain and sector can do, potentially helping other organisations reach zero avoidable waste.

The next step for the initiative is to assess and evaluate a number of these opportunities across the construction lifecycle.