Last month, CuSP attended the annual InstallerSHOW which is held at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. This event, which has been taking place annually for the last six years, is attended by thousands of professionals in heating, plumbing, commercial engineering, renewable energy, and electricity, and showcases innovative products and services, ideas, and initiatives.
With this in mind, and with COP26 just around the corner, we expected to see a huge focus on sustainability this year, with lots of exhibitors proudly showing off the environmental credentials of their products.
Although the show did have environmental-focused seminars taking place over the three days, there were only two out of 160 exhibitors which had a sustainability agenda or even mentioned the impact their product or service has on the environment.
This is a stark reminder of just how far the construction industry still has to go in achieving greater environmental thinking and increasing the use of sustainable practices and materials. According to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), construction, demolition and excavation generated around three fifths (62%) of total UK waste in 2018 – so why is the construction industry not talking about how much of this waste can be safely recycled and reused? And why are products that can’t be recycled still being promoted as the professional choice?
If we are to improve the sustainability of our industry and become more responsible in how we dispose of and recycle our waste, we need to break the mould and challenge the norms. Now is the time to pause and reflect on materials that have been around for centuries and serve a valuable purpose to both the industry and the circular economy – and this is where copper comes in.
Copper has long been hailed as the pro plumber’s choice, but its popularity has dramatically decreased in recent years due to the emergence of cheaper alternatives. However, copper is perfectly placed to help meet the new sustainable challenges set by the government and help the building industry become more environmentally friendly.
Copper has a unique ability to be recycled over and over without any loss in performance or properties and around half of Europe’s copper demand is currently being met by recycled materials. What’s more, research suggests that there are approximately 5.6 billion metric tonnes of copper in circulation – a figure more than sufficient to surpass both current and future demand.
Copper has been recycled and re-used for as long as the material itself has been in use and there is a fully developed scrap-collecting infrastructure in place which has existed for centuries – unlike other plumbing and construction materials such as plastic. So, while plastics manufacturers are still figuring out how to dismantle and re-use their components, copper that has been used in tube has likely been used before and will certainly be used again.
It’s clear that copper is a durable engineering solution for now and future generations and, by opting to use copper, contractors and builders alike can play a part in improving the sustainability of their industry. However, in order to encourage people to make the move to more sustainable materials, industry-wide events must increase the number of environmentally friendly products being exhibited and encourage more conversations on how we can improve the industry in this way.
For that reason, we’ve taken a look at a number of construction events that have recently taken place, or are taking place within the next six months, and created a top four list of events with a strong sustainability agenda.
Sustainability should be high on the agenda of anyone working in the construction industry – whether this be contractors, builders, plumbers, engineers, or architects – so we really should be questioning and challenging the organisers of industry events that aren’t encouraging conversations about reducing waste, increasing recycling, and using more environmentally friendly products and methods.
If we are to truly make a change, then we all need to join forces to fight back against the misconceptions of the plastics greenwash and promote sustainable materials, such as copper, as the professional and responsible choice.
Make the right choice. Make the commitment to sustainability.