Finding ways to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging waste in construction sites can help you save money, while helping protect the environment. Measures like these also improve the public image of your company, opening business opportunities with clients who prioritize sustainability.

To manage packaging waste effectively in construction sites, the first step is learning about the types of packaging and understand their purpose.


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Types of Packaging Used for Construction Materials

Packaging can be classified into three categories, and the main goal should be to reduce, reuse, and recycle each type:

  • Primary packaging is the one that protects and identifies a single product.
  • Secondary packaging groups several units of the same product into a single set.
  • Transit packaging serves as protection when products are being transported and stored.

Understanding how packaging is used can help you negotiate with suppliers, and find ways to reduce packaging on their products. Consider the following functions of packaging::

  • Labels: Describes the product and communicate all health and safety issues regarding the product.
  • Containment: Plastic and cardboard help protect materials from external agents that cause corrosion, excess moisture and condensation.
  • Protection: Materials like shrink-wrap and cardboard are used to minimise movement during transit. This protects products from impact and mutual friction.
  • Securing products: Unprotected products can get lost or misplaced easily.
  • Ease of handling: Handling many loose materials is more complicated than managing a single group.

Reducing Packaging Waste in Construction Sites

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Eliminating packaging as a whole is not practical, but consider eliminating unnecessary layers:

  • Inner bags for cardboard boxes with laminates.
  • Packaging for moisture protection in areas with no humidity.
  • Reducing the use of tape, in favor of interlocking tabs.
  • Furniture can arrive in a perfect state using only corner protection.
  • Reduce labels with in-mold embossing.
  • Use plastic reusable boxes that can be returned to suppliers.
  • Consider using silos to store cement on-site.

Agreements with suppliers are key to reduce packaging on your construction site. Suppliers can remove some layers of packaging from the products you order before they reach your site. By doing so, both parts can achieve savings. Here are some ways suppliers can help you reduce packaging:

  • Lightweighting: Eliminate one or more layers of packaging, eliminate plastic films if possible, avoid hollow or double-walled containers unless absolutely necessary.
  • Reducing fillers and void space: Unnecessary void space can be reduced by designing products that don’t require fillers. Use air bags as fillers to protect fragile products, instead of using foam pellets. Use cardboard wrapping instead of bubble wrap in complex shaped products.
  • Sustainable packaging: Reduce the environmental impact of packaging by using recycled materials and creating reusable packages. Also use certified timber products and by-products.
  • Efficient transportation: Determine the most efficient distribution and size of packaging to maximize the use of pallets. Also, use returnable boxes and pallets for deliveries.

Reusing Packaging Waste in Construction Sites

When packaging cannot be eliminated, the best option is reusing packaging as many times as possible. Pallets, crates, sturdy plastic boxes, cardboard boxes and other packaging types can be reused multiple times. However, some suppliers consider that collecting packaging is not economical. Even when suppliers cannot collect materials, there are multiple ways of reusing packaging on site:

  • Multi-use pallets can be repaired and used on site, to stack other materials or as curing tables for masonry.
  • Sell single-use pallets back to suppliers, or to companies that use them as raw materials.
  • Large plastic sheets can be used to protect other materials from weathering.
  • Worn out polypropylene bags can be used to store demolition waste.
  • Use product boxes to store cut offs or waste for easier classification.

Recycling Packaging Waste in Construction Sites

Most of the packaging used for construction materials can be recycled effectively. Metals, untreated timbers, paper, cardboard and plastics are some examples of recyclable materials that are common in construction sites. Materials that contain hazardous substances require special handling, but they can also be recycled. To recycle packaging on site, consider the following measures:

  • Use color-coding schemes for waste containers.
  • Place clear signs near skips to identify what is going to be placed inside them.
  • Contact local recycling organizations for collection prices.
  • Use on-site balers to reduce waste space.
  • Consider composting paper and cardboard.
  • Learn about shared collection schemes to reduce costs and maximise recycling.
  • Contact licensed waste manager contractor to determine the best location for unrecyclable materials.

Packaging represents one-third of total waste in many construction sites. When this waste is managed effectively, the environmental impact of construction projects can be greatly reduced. Also note that recycling and effective waste management are mandatory for LEED certification.

 

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