Plastic effects all sectors including the timber industry

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Plastic’s lightweight, durability and strength make it an ideal material for many purposes including packaging, wrapping and manufacturing of goods. In addition, plastic has fully emersed itself into the energy efficiency industry, transportation and electronics. The uses of plastic in society and daily life are vast, the problem is what happens to this material after we chuck it away.


Experts predict that by 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean will weigh more than the amount of fish in the ocean.


The issue

The increasing global awareness of climate and environmental issues has led to increase pressure for the forest industry and wood construction to develop ‘green’ solutions in line with consumers needs and expectations, along with new opportunities.


The construction sector is estimated to be the second highest contributor of plastic, second to the packaging industry with an estimated 50,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste annually. Tackling the issue and use of plastic is not straight forward, arguably the most appropriate material due to the durability and longevity, it is vastly used for packaging and protection of resources.


Plastic packaging presents problems in the supply chain in terms of their use, handling, segregation, recycling and end of life disposal.


  • 5 million tonnes of plastic is used annually in the UK
  • The construction industry accounts for 23% of plastic consumed in the UK
  • Annually, 50,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste is produced in the UK by the construction industry
  • 40% / 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste from UK construction is sent to landfill
  • Estimated only 2-4% of single-use plastic is recycled from construction sites
  • An estimated 25% of skips that leave construction sites are filled with disposable packaging, including cardboard, timber and plastic


Introduced in 1997, the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations were designed to enable packaging producers to take responsibility for their environmental impacts through imposing costs for recovery and recycling of packaging waste.


The UK’s recovery targets for 2019 were 55% and 2020 are 57%.


The cost of PRN varies from week to week depending on availability and current PRN recovery rate. The December saw prices reach £301.09 compared to £119.77 at the end of January 2019. You can check the weekly PRN prices here.


Additionally in the UK, these include Deposit Return Schemes, consistent municipal recycling collections (to be introduced from 2023) and a tax of plastic packaging with low levels of recycled content (to be introduced for April 2022).


If  a company (or group of companies) handle 50 tonnes plus of packaging annually + have a turnover of over £2 million. If necessary there are two options of compliance strategy: individual route or compliance scheme. Most companies chose to use a compliance scheme for ease and time, a list of registered producers can be found here.


More guidance on packaging and producer responsibilities here


By 2021, there will a law imposed and approved by the European Parliament banning all single-use plastic in the EU. Known as the ‘Single-Use Plastics Directive‘, this will place more responsibility and pressure for plastic producers, including new recycling targets for EU member states.


Viewed as a “step towards establishing a circular economy in which the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and in which more sustainable materials are developed and promoted”. The law promotes a circular economy and correlates to sustainable development goal (SDG) 12 which works ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’, requiring development of sustainable, non-toxic reusable products and systems. As a wider aim, this works towards SDG 14 working to prevent and reduce marine pollution and plastic debris.


The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), introduced the UK Plastics Pact, in 2018, a word-leading initiative with other countries following similar pacts across the globe. Targets in the Pact are a strong driver to increase the recycling of plastic packaging and create more sustainable end markets for plastic packaging.



With the detrimental impacts of plastic high on a global agenda, companies are turning to bio-based alternatives which are often bio compostable

Some are more straight-forward including:

  • Higher recovery of plastic before being disregarded to landfills/ mixed waste skips
  • Reusing packaging – talk with your supplier to see if they can reduce the packaging or if they are able to take it back to reuse
  • Bulk buy materials covered in plastic to potentially reduce the volume of packaging per item
  • Use large sheets of plastic sheeting that arrived as wrapping for use on site as weather protection
  • When plastic packaging can’t be recycled, sent it to a licensed Waste Management Contractor


Timber is the only renewable construction material and meet the accepted criteria of a circular, bio economic resource more than almost any material.


Our mission is to grow the use of wood in the UK, empowering our members to push the use of timber, while generating a greater awareness of the benefits of timber and measures that should be taken to mitigate negative sustainability implications.


The TTF’s Forest Forever Committee take a strong interest in plastic with direct feedback given on actions the TTF and members respectively can do to take action and how it affects the industry. This is a work in progress, more information to follow.