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SUSTAINABILITY


INDUSTRY RISES TO MEET SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGES


Plastic as a material has transformed industry and transformed the way we live our lives, but it’s proved a double-edged sword. BMJ investigates some of the initiatives to reduce plastic and energy use and make the industry more sustainable.


P


lastic pollution is a huge global problem and the need to reduce it , or, preferably eliminate it, it goes hand in hand with the need to reduce our energy use if we are to ensure the planet has a safe future.


Manufacturing is a major user of energy and also of plastics. Packaging, in particular, is a tricky aspect. Materials that are being distributed from factory to merchant yard need to be packaged sufficiently well to avoid them being damaged. Many merchant suppliers are now turning to alternatives ways of protecting their products and reducing their impact on the planet.


Lakes Showering Spaces introduced fully- recyclable packaging a couple of years ago. The improved packaging alone will remove approximately 2,000 kilometres of banding a year from landfill, and nearly two million pieces of polystyrene, designed to reduce its impact on the environment. After months of research and development Lakes’ new product packaging is now 100% eco-friendly. Lakes’ commitment and focus to improving its impact on the environment is also extending to 100% recycling of all product waste, primarily glass and aluminium, and of


all recyclable site and office waste. Sales and marketing director Mike Tattam says the company used a specialist packing designer to redesign the packaging, removing the strapping, adding handholds to make moving the product easier and made the boxes smaller, which helped offset warehousing and distribution costs. “To put that in perspective that is 2,000k of plastic banding that we removed from our packaging - the distance from Tewkesbury to Valetta Harbour. We took out the polystyrene and replaced it with corrugated cardboard, removed the tape and staples and we now use environmental glue to stick the cardboard together


“We were the first in our sector to use fully 100% recyclable packaging. Damages were reduced by over 50%, our waste and haulage costs were down and that meant we didn’t need as many vehicles runs as we could get more product the one load. Our waste went down by 75%.”


Last year Lakes became the first carbon neutral business in its sector, something Tattam says the company is very proud of. “This was done partly by recycling of products and packaging but also by off- setting the carbon footprint caused by


our vehicles. We did this by encouraging a corporate social responsibility focus amongst our staff and working with communities.” It’s not just on the lightside that strides are being made by manufacturers. Since the beginning of 2021, brick manufacturer Michelmersh has made a firm commitment to reduce the use of stretch-hoods and shrink-wrapping plastic from its product offering, where it’s non-essential for product protection, safe storage and transport. The company says that cutting the use of plastic will mean a direct reduction in environmental impact whilst significantly reducing waste on site.


Product protection


Some products will still require a degree of plastic protection, however; for these Michelmersh’s UK sites are using thinner film, reducing the total weight of plastic employed. The edge strips are also produced from 100% recycled plastic.


As a Group, it has also eliminated all plastic from its samples, using cardboard made from recycled content that is responsibly sourced, locally, and encourages customers to recycle its contents at the end of its use. More than


24


www.buildersmerchantsjournal.net April 2021


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