Builders cleaning and the environment
Most chemicals used in the construction and cleaning industries are harmful for humans, animals, plants and the environment. For instance, when cleaning companies use strong cleaning products such as bleach or other hazardous products to clean buildings and houses, solutions are drained down the sinks. Water is mixed with chemicals and is it usually partially cleaned up before it falls straight into a river or lake. All of the chemicals that are not removed by the sewerage system affect the lives of animals, impacts the environment by causing harm to living animals and ultimately destroy the environment.
A non-biodegradable material is a type of material that ground soil, water or air cannot decompose or breakdown. Some examples of non-biodegradable materials are plastics, glass, cans or hazard chemicals. Unfortunately, plastic, glass and aluminium packaging are commonly used in the modern world and make a high contribution in general to the total waste production of the population.
What are the effects of such materials on the lives of humans and animals?
The primary consequence of the constant rise in non-biodegradable waste is global warming which in the long term has several detrimental effects such as causing the rise of sea levels, more frequent extreme weather changes in turn leading to problems such as heat waves and desert expansion. Flooding is another negative consequence of non-biodegradable materials on human life and can cause significant financial losses and even tragic deaths. In addition, marine life is put in danger when plastics and other hazardous chemicals are present in the sea.
According to a report prepared by the UK Government Statistical Service for the Department of Environmental and Rural Affairs, in 2016, the UK generated 222.9 million tonnes of total waste. The Construction industry was responsible for 64% of this which is an incredibly substantial figure for just one industry to be solely responsible for!
With these figures increasing year by year, it is becoming more and more challenging to maintain an environmentally friendly approach. However, with the UK currently having a set target to recycle at least 50% of waste by 2020, environmentally friendly practices and approaches are more critical than ever.
But is recycling really the only option or what else can we do to minimize the effect of waste produced by the construction and cleaning industries?
Some of the most efficient ways that all companies, including trades within the construction industry such as After Builders cleaners, can strive to manage waste in an effort to become more environmentally friendly are outlined below:
- Cut waste
- Use environmentally friendly products and choose more sustainable suppliers
- Consider ways in which to support the protection of animals and the environment
- Implement recycling procedures to be followed by all staff
As we have already established, the construction industry, which includes trades such as After Builders cleaning companies, makes a significant contribution to the UK’s annual waste figures, and so businesses within the construction sector should consider ways of reducing their waste such as via maximum utilisation of materials. An example in the After Builders cleaning industry in particular, is sticking to correct dilution amounts and following appropriate methods and procedures so as to avoid unnecessary waste. For example, manufacturers could select a smaller lid for the cleaning products or even a dilution cap which could be designed into the packaging methods to help cleaners to use only the necessary amount of product as required for the task at hand. Builders cleaners should be well trained in COSHH (the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) and the appropriate use and handling of the chemicals that they use. They should have assigned supervisors responsible for making sure that all chemicals are being used correctly, including the following of dilution techniques. Builders cleaning companies could even appoint a specific person within their organization who specifically studies policies and methods to reduce waste and who is responsible for implementing them. Absolutely every little bit of waste adds up and could have a detrimental effect on the lives of animals and humans and on the environment.
Another very important element to be minimised is to cut down on the use of plastics which could be achieved by using cardboard packaging for instance, instead of plastic. If something more hardwearing than plastic is necessary, then it is better to use a recyclable packaging such as stainless steel or glass packaging. It is worth remembering that a single plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to degrade! It is therefore vital to minimise the use of non-degradable materials.
Unfortunately, environmentally friendly products are still not very popular, so there are still not huge array of companies who produce ‘Green’ products. In the construction industry, focusing again on the Builders cleaning trade, environmentally friendly products are not always the first choice, due to the lack of effectiveness of many of the product options currently available on the market.
Cleaning companies have often complained that environmentally friendly products are not as efficient as the ones that they currently use. It will take time for the market to change and for reputable industry brands to follow suit and adapt their existing preferred products so that they are more environmentally friendly, examples include well known cleaning products such as Cif and Fairy liquid detergent. If big players such as these were to start selling themselves as being ‘Environmentally friendly’, then for sure, their competitors would fall in line.
Marketing and advertising campaigns play a big part in spreading the word. If the government was, for instance, to promote programmes that encourage the use of or production of environmentally friendly products this would likely help to increase their popularity and help towards environmentally friendly products and services no longer being seen as a niche, but as mainstream.
Protection of animals and plants and the environment.
It is crucial to preserve plant and animal life, especially the lives of endangered species. Fortunately there are various laws and legislation in place in support of this such as the Endangered Species Act.
Similarly, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) and other relevant UK Laws regulate the disposal of hazardous waste and how other waste is managed. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) implemented legislation such as the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), both of which serve to protect water from pollution from hazardous chemicals such as those used and incorrectly disposed of into the main water supply by the construction and cleaning industries. The goals of these acts are to eliminate waste that is discharged into water by activities which, if carried out incorrectly could include pollution of water, ultimately impacting the lives of plants and animals.
A significant measure that companies can take to play their part in the reduction of pollution is to follow COSHH regulations – of paramount importance in the Builders cleaning industry. COSHH offers guidance on the correct usage of and safe disposal methods for hazardous products. By disposing of cleaning chemicals in the correct way in accordance with COSHH regulations, cleaning companies can contribute toward minimising water pollution so that the river and sea are cleaner and safer for all. An example of how Builders cleaners might comply with COSHH regulations is to avoid pouring buckets of water mixed with bleach down sinks directly into the water supply and instead to pour it down an external waste drain or at least down the toilets instead of the sink.
Although there are increasing efforts by UK government to raise awareness to recycle with care, laws that enforce the recycling of waste by companies and households do not yet exist. However, with the UK’s target set to recycle at least 50% of waste by 2020 as previously discussed, local authorities, households and businesses are actively encouraged to do all they can to contribute to the effort.
Several local authorities in the UK have implemented independent waste collection systems and such initiatives provide a tremendous contribution to the country’s recycling efforts. However, more needs to be done to enforce recycling. For instance, financial penalties could help to improve recycling figures and in turn, help companies to become more environmentally friendly.
On a daily basis, companies can choose their purchases more carefully and select recyclable materials. An example in the cleaning industry is to use microfibre cloths which can be washed and recycled, as oppose to using paper towels and wipes which are used for a quick wipe and then disposed of.
Although there have been many positive steps in the direction of improving the environment via recycling, reducing pollution and suchlike, cleary there remains a lot to be done.
Mainstream brands should adapt and large corporate organisations and well established businesses should lead by example, others would then be likely to quickly follow suit. Preference of environmentally friendly services and products needs to become the norm, and not a niche.
However it is not just the collective responsibility of larger firms but it is also an individual responsibility that we all need to be accountable for, regardless of our role or trade. The construction industry though, being responsible for such a large segment of the UK’s annual waste production, has a particularly important role and the most work to do to implement changes. Those working within this industry such as Builders cleaners, need to pay particular attention to what they can do to impact the drive for environmentally friendly construction.