So, where do we go from here?

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.
And yet I’m one of the lucky ones.

Remember just before the pandemic hit, we were all about the green thing? We were all going to reduce plastic bag use, swap bottles of shampoo and shower gel for soap and refill pouches, eat more plant-based foods and leave the roast beef for special occasions. Greta Thunberg had stood up in the United Nations and shamed us all .

Then Covid hit and it all went a bit pear-shaped. Disposable face masks, although no longer strictly compulsory, are everywhere. In the shops, in your pocket, in the car, on the pavement,  in the bin, on the grass by the bin.  We have spent most of the last 18 months staying at home, drowning in Amazon and Hermes packaging (I even recognise the Hermes delivery lady’s car when it drives up now) and thinking we are doing our bit to save the planet because we stick it all outside the back door and someone takes it away once a fortnight. Recycling is the ultimate example of out-of-sight, out-of-mind it seems, judging by  the horrifying photos of tonnes of our plastic waste piled up in a third world country’s back yard rather than ours.

Now, though, we are starting to emerge from the Covid fog and it is time to get thinking about our long-term future again, not just whether our double-jabbed arms will be sufficient to save us from a few days’ isolation and whether it’s OK to just ‘pop into Waitrose, it’s only for five minutes’ if we’ve forgotten a mask.

The UK construction industry is a major contributor to our carbon emissions and our negative impact on the planet. The construction industry itself and the buildings it creates. So, it’s great to see the strides that are being made by CO2nstruct Zero – the CLC cross industry programme to drive carbon out of all parts of the construction supply chain by 2050.

The important part of that is “cross industry” – none of this can happen on its own. The contractors are getting behind it, suppliers are setting their stalls out as Business Champions and, more importantly, the BMF is championing it and merchants are  picking up the gauntlet.

Merchants have a huge role to play in bringing new, more energy efficient ways of building to the wider world. They are the conduit between the manufacturers and the installers and builders, who themselves are the face of the industry to the general public. No matter how much pushing there is from suppliers (and there are some amazing strides being made in terms of packaging, energy use and recycling) and the wider construction industry, it will be by getting to the hearts and minds of householders that the difference will be made.

plastic waste third world

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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