Sealants and sustainability

Sealants and sustainability

It’s not just plastic bottles and food packaging that contribute to the single-use plastic problem in the UK; the waste generated by the construction industry plays a part too. Andy Cummins, Senior Product Manager at Geocel, takes a look at the environmental issues with plastic sealant cartridges – and the small steps to take, to help make a positive impact.

Over the last decade, the devastating human impact from excessive levels of plastic waste has become one of the most pressing environmental issues. Generated from day-to-day activities, these products often cannot be recycled and end up in landfills that are rapidly filling up. The construction industry is a significant contributor to this. In fact, the sector consumes 23% of all plastic produced in the UK, with an estimated 50,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year.

It is a crucial issue facing us – and in a recent survey by the Considerate Constructors Scheme, 95% of respondents stated that the construction industry must reduce its plastics and packaging consumption.

If we were to look just at plastic sealant and adhesive cartridges, shockingly, more than 100 million of them are sent to landfill each year, after being thrown away by tradespeople on a daily basis. In theory, the plastic used to make sealant cartridges could be recycled; but due to the residue product that is left inside ‘empty’ cartridges, which cannot be easily removed, they must go to landfill.

As the industry begins to recognise its impact, there is not only moral pressure to reduce plastic waste, but also financial pressure too. For larger operations, the cost of sending plastic waste to landfill will undoubtedly continue to rise, with only an estimated 6.8 years of non-hazardous landfill capacity left in England, as of 2017. It is also expected that landfill tax will continue to increase, which has already more than trebled since 2008 to £94.15 per tonne. Furthermore, as from April 2022 the government is due to introduce a further tax on companies who produce or import plastic packaging with insufficient recycled content, which will in turn cause product prices to rise.

Environmentally-friendly alternative
As a result, manufacturers are increasingly considering ways in which the number of plastic cartridges that go to waste can be reduced. Geocel, for example, has launched the new ecoSEAL system, with trade favourite sealants such as Dowsil 785+ and THE WORKS PRO now available in foils. Working in conjunction with a reusable sleeve, users can switch from traditional plastic cartridges to a more environmentally-friendly alternative.

The premise of the ecoSEAL system is simple. The foil can be inserted into a re-usable plastic sleeve that then fits into any standard gun. The sleeve can be re-used up to 75 times and is also recyclable at the end of its usable life. When empty, the foils are eight times smaller than traditional cartridges, meaning less waste is sent to landfill. However, the greatest benefit to plumbers is that they can easily make the switch to a more sustainable solution without compromising on the quality of the product they use.

Many of us are already looking at simple ways to reduce plastic waste – from using ‘bags for life’ to being more conscientious recyclers. With simple innovations such as the ecoSEAL system, plumbers can also make small changes to their working lives, which can make a positive difference to construction’s impact on the environment.

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