The UK is currently hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow until the 12th November 2021, where countries meet to discuss measures to help tackle the climate crisis.
When answering questions regarding the COP26 summit and its key talking points, Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented on the plastics crisis and said that reusing and recycling plastic “doesn’t begin to address the problem”, pointing out that the real solution is actually cutting down on the overall production of the material.
Unlike copper, there’s a limit to how many times plastics can be recycled – typically only two to three times. On top of this, statistics show that:
- Only 16% of plastic is recycled to make new plastic
- 40% ends up in landfill sites
- 25% is incinerated
- 19% is simply dumped
It is abundantly clear that the production and use of plastic is no longer an issue, it’s a crisis. Furthermore, not all plastics can be recycled and those that can require a considerable amount of energy, in turn generating an unhealthy level of CO2 emissions.
When it comes to the use of plastic in the built environment, research shows that plastic waste from the UK’s construction industry has increased 45.72% over just two years. With sustainability coming to the forefront of government strategies after adopting the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the time to cut back on plastic and choose more ecological construction materials is now.
In comparison, sustainability isn’t an issue when using copper and its lifecycle is infinite, as the benefits and properties of copper are not lost during the recycling process. What’s more, the recycling process itself uses 85% less energy than mining raw materials. Copper forms part of a circular economy which offers a clear pathway to tackling emissions, positioning it as a material of choice for meeting new challenges within the construction industry and providing a more sustainable future.
Government grants to encourage heat pump installation in homes across the UK
In light of COP26 discussions, the government has toughened its stance on making our homes more eco-friendly in line with climate targets. At present, approximately 85% of homes throughout the UK use gas boilers for heating and supplying hot water, contributing to more than a fifth of the UK’s total carbon emissions through the use of fossil fuels. In fact, it is one of the most polluting sectors of the economy.
Because of this, the government has announced a new 3-year plan to offer £450 million worth of grants to help encourage an estimated 90,000 households to install heat pumps and other low-carbon heating systems. The initiative is part of the government’s commitment to a wider £3.9 billion funding package dedicated to help decarbonise the housing sector through its Heat and Buildings Strategy.
Copper pipes and heat pumps
Encouraging heat pump installation in homes across the UK is a big step in the right direction for a sustainable future, but why stop there? With copper pipes being suitable for supplying heating, water as well as gas into homes across the UK, there is no need to use plastic pipes which also contribute to the environmental impact of the construction industry. This is typically overlooked because of mass greenwashing within the plastic industry, but the statistics speak for themselves.
Using copper pipes to complement the advantages of heat pumps is the logical choice due to the number of benefits copper pipes have when compared to plastic pipes. Shorter, more efficient piping paths can be laid using copper, making energy and heat circulation more efficient. Copper is also favourable because of its thermal resilience and ability to withstand fluctuating temperatures, in which plastics could crack or lose durability.
It’s clear that the construction industry needs to do more to improve its sustainability, and the outcomes of COP26 are only highlighting this. To ensure we create homes fit for the future, we must consider how we can eliminate single use plastics and replace them with infinitely recyclable alternative, such as copper.
So why not choose sustainability and do it proper, with copper?