The UK government estimates 204,530 new homes were completed in the UK financial year ending March 2022. That is roughly 1.43 billion bricks, 1.6 million windows and just over 1.2 million doors – all products contained in some form of packaging mostly single use. With environmental challenges increasing, sustainability has become a key focus within the construction sector with its unique sustainability challenges, with packaging waste being a significant one.
A comprehensive industry report by The Supply Chain Sustainability School has been released focused on “Packaging Optimisation in the Housebuilding Sector.” The report offers practical examples of eliminating or reducing packaging from infancy then adapting packaging design which improve recyclability and offering alternatives to plastic.
Through processes such as testing ulterior plastics corner protectors, film wraps, strapping reusable delivery boxes and using refillable mastic cartridges, the report delves into the critical issue of packaging waste alongside offering practical solutions promising to reduce the impact on both costs and carbon footprint.
Mark Turner, Waste and Resource Management lead for the Supply Chain Sustainability School, highlighted the collaborative effort behind the report: “This has been a brilliant opportunity to help deliver our School mission to enable a sustainable built environment through knowledge and collaboration. We have worked closely alongside four of the UK’s largest Housebuilders and in total over 30 leading organisations within the built environment to produce this report. Insights from the Housebuilders, their suppliers, product manufacturers, along with waste management and policy experts have provided a window into the opportunities for packaging optimisation.”
By providing essential insights into practical solutions the report equips businesses with the knowledge needed to navigate these decisions with great success, as exemplified by their five tips:
- Question if packaging is needed at all – especially plastic wrap.
- Optimise wrap use by minimising thickness, specifying LDPE or LLDPE using at least 30 percent recycled content and avoiding excessive use of branding, inks and stickers.
- Switch from plastic and expanded polystyrene to cardboard or pulp for packaging elements which protect products.
- Ensure containers are sized appropriately to reduce the need for additional space packing.
- Engage the whole supply chain to reduce or enable more circular use of pallets.
In addition to practical solutions, the report shines a light on the policy challenges that organizations dealing with significant packaging volumes are likely to encounter. It addresses key concerns such as the Plastic Packaging Tax and Extended Producer Responsibility, two pivotal aspects of contemporary sustainability policies.
Roger Wright, Waste Strategy & Packaging Manager at Biffa said: “In the recent past, a focus on sustainable packaging development has been in Food Retail, however it’s great to see Housebuilding finally getting shown the love and attention it deserves in this area. The challenges and opportunities for sustainable packaging in such sector are no less important or significant than any other, with some brilliant businesses turning insights into action!”
Will Keer, Head of Construction and Supply at Biffa summarised: “The critical role waste management providers such as Biffa play in sustainable packaging development is often overlooked, so we were delighted to be involved in this collaborative project. By engaging the entire supply chain, this report provides businesses with practical and sustainable steps to optimising their packaging.”
The Supply Chain Sustainability School's latest report is a testament to the construction industry's commitment to sustainability. It addresses the critical issue of packaging waste and offers practical solutions paving the way for a more environmentally responsible and financially sound future.