‘Spotlight on… plastics and packaging’ raises awareness of the impact of plastics and packaging on the environment and provides the construction industry with guidance for tackling this issue. SPOTLIGHT ON... 2 Spotlight on... plastics and packaging Plastics and packaging are unavoidable in modern society, with the global market driven by consumerism and convenience, the demand for plastic is only increasing. According to the United Nations Environment Programme , more than 8 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, and around 60% of that plastic has ended up in either landfill or the natural environment. For decades, society has ignored the environmental risks associated with plastics and packaging. However, recent scientific studies and documentary exposés such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet have revealed just how detrimental plastics and packaging are to the environment and to human health. The following statistics illustrate the severity of this environmental issue: Plastics and packaging Packaging is defined as any material used to hold, protect, handle, deliver and present goods. Such materials might include cardboard, paper, timber, and most notably, plastic. Despite the environmental risks associated with plastic, the construction industry is reliant on plastic in its working practices. This is because plastic is cheap, lightweight, water-resistant and chemically inert, making it an ideal resource for the industry to use. • The UK uses over 5 million tonnes of plastic every year. • The UK exports around 450,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year. • Plastic packaging accounts for around 70% of all plastic waste produced in the UK. • Less than one third of plastic waste is recycled in the UK. • Globally, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. • Up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. • An estimated 480 billion plastic bottles are sold across the world each year – this is around 20,000 plastic bottles every second.