A construction worker issued a distressing warning about plastic waste at job sites recently, and the responses were not encouraging.
“Does anyone else just cringe at the amount of plastic waste and microplastics created in construction?” the Redditor wrote, detailing the detritus that came with 12-by-24-inch travertine pavers. The limestone was delivered in pallets, and each piece was separated by a styrofoam sheet.
“Every time we take a new piece of stone from the pallet the styrofoam breaks apart and the flakes of it just drift away, polluting the property,” they continued. “I try to stop it happening but no one else gives a s*** so my efforts are futile. So much stuff like this happening every day with plastic in construction. At least I’m not breathing this stuff in like the guys who install trex or other plastic decking.”
The r/Construction subreddit was hopping with similar stories, and there were no solutions to be found.
“No one really cares and it’s pretty concerning as well as no one seeing what’s wrong with it and dumping chemicals and other junk everywhere, especially in storm drains that lead to water ways,” one user wrote.
A welder said no one in the hierarchy of modern construction “give[s] the slightest f*** about anything but next paycheck.”
If the industry and the people in it are unwilling or unable to change, then the problem will have to be fixed from the outside. The rate of plastic production is only increasing, and the resulting waste will have to be removed from the Earth — or better yet, the manufacturing supply chain — before we are buried in it.
Companies and governments can lessen their environmental impacts by turning to reusable packaging and banning plastic goods. Startups are even using food waste and plants to make recyclable plastic, and scientific developments include plastic alternatives made of seaweed and fungus.
One user outlined the obscene waste of individually packaged light bulbs but said “the worst” situation was styrofoam particles rasped from exterior insulation finishing systems.
“I haven’t seen any sort of mitigation by the crews with a vacuum,” they wrote. “They just let it pollute the surroundings. S*** should be illegal.”
Another noted how it doesn’t have to be this way: “I’ve bought a few tools direct from Japan recently and the first thing I noticed was how little plastic they used in packaging. It’s usually just inside cardboard with maybe a little plastic clip to hold it together. So there’s totally no need for us to put everything in layers of plastic. There’s much better ways.”
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