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Fit Out, Sustainability

Can Plastic Be Removed from Your Office Fit-Out?

Plastic free offices

The use of plastic in construction is a problem. A significant problem, with devastating effects.

Plastic was once sold as the solution to improve the longevity of material; it would reduce maintenance intervals and offer substantial savings against the cost of construction. Who wouldn’t want a product with those types of beneficial credentials?

The building and construction sector is the second largest market segment for plastics in Europe, after packaging, generating an estimated 50,000 tonnes of waste each year.

There are articles online which put a preposterous positive spin on plastic as an industry, pointing to the amount of revenue and employment that is associated with the product. But due to the irreversible effects of plastic mankind will no longer have a place on this planet, which makes GDP irrelevant by affiliation.

A key topic of research for Aztec is SUP’s (single use plastics) specifically. Society has become increasingly attuned to the issue. It has been rising through the corporate agenda over the past 24 months and feeding into practice.

This is fantastic news due to the importance of the topic and something that Aztec, are ideally positioned to assist with at this opportune time.

The growing profile of the problem has led major real estate companies such as Canary Wharf Group to commit to addressing it, announcing in 2018 that it would become the world’s first “plastic-free commercial centre.” Achieving this by working with local businesses and retailers to eliminate or replace single-use plastics across its estate.

The game changers and innovators lead the pack and set the precedents, Aztec can bring your office space in line with the same processes and applications as the market leaders. Making changes possible at all levels, no matter the size of the business.

With around eight million tonnes of plastic pollution entering the oceans every year and plastic microparticles found in drinking water across five continents, it’s hard not to be pessimistic about the impact on humans, animals and the environment. If you can get your team to start thinking and behaving different towards their use of plastic, the magnitude of change will make a bigger impact, faster.

We are now facing a climate crisis, saving our planet should be a priority, not only for the current generation, but for generations to come. The plastic epidemic needs addressing yesterday; at the current rate of destruction we won’t have a tomorrow.

The public domain is flooded with horrifying images of indestructible waste filling our oceans. The need to tackle the problem has become an international talking point, construction businesses have become increasingly conscious of pressure to clean up their act. But real time action is limited and fragmented across all disciplines of the construction industry.

This is where Aztec is different. We approach the process different. We collaborate, measure and define impacts through our actions. We see the problem as bigger than a single company and engage with supply chain partners at all stages of the process to ensure that our impact has meaning. This is something we will ensure that we offer all our clients, so they too can take the stance against plastic.

Aztec will advise you on what materials specifically contain plastic on your construction project and what plastic alternatives are available to you when fitting out your office. There is plastic in products that you just wouldn’t imagine. Our aim is to select materials individually so that you will find none or very little plastic in everything we offer. We know and accept there are always products which don’t have alternative solutions, and in these instances we work with our partners to ensure the best options are proposed. Running alongside this we have research partners who are working on innovating new solutions which are more Eco friendly. We take into account what is involved in the current installation and ensure that the new plastic free alternative can be simply installed as a retrofit item. Planning for the future.

Below is a list of quick fix, immediate changes that you can do to remove plastic from your fit-out.

  1. Office Seating – A common specification detail for chairs is that they come with plastic arms and plastic bases. To overcome this we suggest you look at chairs with timber or fabric wrapped arms and metal bases. NB Chrome is none Eco friendly. Also consider bamboo chairs in breakout areas as opposed to cheap plastic types.
  2. Plastic Plants – There is a vast amount of research available online that details the benefits of having real plants in the office. From productivity, to reduced absenteeism to attracting new employees. There is a separate conversation to have on this topic alone.
  3. Refill points (no plastic water towers). Research shows that one million waters bottles are used every minute around the world, with that figure expected increase by 20% by 2021. If employees have their own aluminium, reusable drinking bottles. We can eliminate this issue at source, dramatically reducing the number of water bottles manufactured. It can make a powerful statement about the type of business you are to your employees and clients.
  4. Storage – The majority of storage systems tend to be MFC which are generally none recyclable and have plastics within them. Instead consider using steel storage which can generally be recycled at end of life. Steel storage will also generally last much longer giving better value over the lifespan.

Construction likes to pat itself on the back about its strong performance on waste, pointing to zero waste to landfill policies and the effective management of plastic waste streams, but the real picture is more opaque and still in a dire situation.

The sector still relies heavily on single-use packaging, principally plastic films, which are typically bundled up and incinerated at energy from waste plants. Large quantities of plastic end up in general mixed waste and are impossible to recycle either because they cannot be identified, or they are contaminated with other materials.

Let us take action together. Removing the problem from source and eliminating plastic as a product associated with construction. Plastic products are often bought because of either cost or laziness as people do not have time or inclination to search for alternatives.

From the floors we put down, to the lighting and ceilings we put in. Aztec are here to monitor every of the building process from the extraction of raw materials to the end of life of the product.

When choosing a contractor, make sure their environmental values and attitude toward plastic are reflective of your organisation. Don’t think of cost as a reason not to disassociate yourself from plastic.  Aztec will help you choose the right product, at the right price for you as a business – plastic free, or at least plastic less. Impacts of our designs and construction techniques on the environment need to be positive. Having a plastic free office will not only help you improve efficiencies, but it is a step in the right direction for you as a business. Both morally and ethically. An office relocation or refurbishment doesn’t need to be a challenge, with eliminating plastic being nothing more than another hurdle. Our experience and advisory service will make the decision process seamless on your sustainable journey.

For more information about your new, plastic free office. Give us a ring on Tel: 0151 255 0850 or e-mail Paul Ashmore direct on paul.ashmore@aztec-limited.co.uk

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