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Built Environment Journal: Why we must limit use of construction plastics

Plastics are used in a vast range of building components, such as seals, windows and doors, roofing, internal and external finishes, paints, panels, varnishes, stains, pipes, guttering, cables, floor coverings, membranes, formwork, supporting structures, building skins and insulation. However, their benefits come at a growing cost to the environment and public health.

The construction industry consumes 20% of all plastics and 70% of all polyvinyl chloride (PVC) produced globally each year. Exponentially greater amounts are being produced and used, with 8.3bn tonnes of virgin plastics produced worldwide between 1950 and 2017 and global output predicted to double by 2050.

The transition to sustainable construction will involve fundamental changes in the way buildings are designed, manufactured, built and operated. As society pushes up against established planetary boundaries, professionals working in the built environment need to identify how to change our practice.

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