The housebuilding and development sectors have made big strides to becoming more environmentally-friendly and sustainable in recent years, but plenty more can still be done.
Now a new not-for-profit organisation, Changing Streams, has been founded by an entrepreneur from Liverpool in a bid to remove plastic from the construction industry.
Neal Maxwell, who has worked in the construction industry for more than 30 years, established the organisation alongside researchers from the University of Liverpool, after a trip to the Arctic left him appalled by the levels of plastic pollutants in the Arctic Ocean.
As a result, Maxwell is now appealing for UK and international businesses across every industry, but especially those involved in the built environment, to join him in his mission to eradicate the use of plastic on a global scale.
This includes contractors, material manufacturers, the A&D community, surveyors and property owners, as well as any company or individual which believes in this cause.
A new membership programme has been set up which businesses can join to pledge their support, with the ultimate aim of raising awareness of the global plastic problem and funding research into the development of environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Currently, the UK construction sector is the second largest producer of plastic waste in Britain, after packaging. It’s estimated that the building trade generates some 50,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year, 40% of which ends up in landfill.
To try and combat this, Changing Streams is bringing together experts from across the construction, scientific and environmental communities, to facilitate research and development programmes to drive a reduction in plastics in buildings and throughout the built environment supply chain.
The organisation says its current programme of activity could take significant steps towards making construction plastic-free by 2040. Its aims include:
Creating awareness of the plastic epidemic and the impact it is having on the global ecosystem;
Actively researching the development and use of new sustainable plastic-free alternatives;
The phasing out of materials containing plastic within the construction industry;
The creation of a scientific-based accreditation system to access plastic content in products
The creation of a template house made without plastic;
The end of the use of plastic wrapping for building materials such as bricks and cladding;
An online workshop programme;
A new Charter
To achieve this, Changing Streams says it needs businesses to sign up as members and help engage, support and fund the research and innovation.
Various benefits for members are on offer, including: a series of networking events to share best practice and knowledge; regular communication via e-bulletins and a copy of the annual report; access to accredited training and technical webinars run by specialists; and the development of a bespoke individual action plan to help companies cut their own plastic usage.
“After my trip to the Arctic, I was shocked by the extent of the plastic problem and had to do something about it,” Maxwell said.
“I’ve worked in construction for over 30 years, so it was the obvious place to start. When I researched the major contribution my industry was actually having to the problem, I knew it was time for action on a global scale – and that has to start somewhere.”
He added: “We have already attracted a lot of support for Changing Streams from experts across the construction, scientific and environmental communities and have some exciting plans on how we can make our vision a reality. In order to achieve the future we want, though, we need more support from businesses of every size and shape.”
He said Changing Streams can open up doors for members to academic research and provide access ‘to extensive knowledge platforms’, which can help future-proof businesses and ensure they have a greener, more sustainable growth plan.
“It is only through this type of collaboration that we will be able to accomplish real change and ensure that plastic doesn’t become the asbestos of the future,” Maxwell continued.
“We used to use asbestos throughout our industry before we knew the damage it was doing to our lungs. We know the damage plastic is doing to our planet and other species. Isn’t now the time to do something about the problem?”
There are many ways you can help Changing Streams in its mission to make the built environment go plastic-free for future generations. For more information about membership, or other ways you can support Changing Streams, visit: www.changingstreams.org or email email@example.com.