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BtR and The Big Plastic Count

Helen Gray • 17/05/2022

How we can help residents reduce as much as 115 football fields worth of plastic.

This week is The Big Plastic Count, a collaboration between Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic to create the UK’s biggest investigation into household plastic waste. Despite the ‘War on Plastic’, of the seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated globally so far, less than 10 per cent has been recycled. Most UK households throw away at least 40kg of plastic every year.

How can the Build to Rent sector help?  
We know that successful environmental strategies are as much about changing our collective behaviours as they are about the design, delivery and management of the building. And we know that just a nudge at a time can help, especially at scale (the ‘5p carrier bag tax’ reduced plastic bag consumption by 83% in one year!) And finally, we know that new initiatives are usually successful if they are easy to do. 
 
Introducing refill shops to Build to Rent schemes could be one such initiative, offering residents a zero-waste, zero-faff option of simply popping downstairs when they run out of washing up liquid. It not only speaks to the environmental concerns of many renters – the collective impact could also be enormous. 

If there are currently c. 72,700 operational BtR units in the UK, and the average UK person uses 37 plastic bottles a year (in terms of toiletries and household cleaning only), the use of refill stations in BtR schemes could reduce plastic waste by nearly 4.6 million bottles a year! 
 
If we look at existing stock and pipeline (c. 225,350 units) and thus a potential renter population of c. 383,050, this would equate to a whopping 14 million bottles, on purely toiletries and household cleaning products. 
 
If we could extend this to cover drink cartons, plastic food trays etc – for example, by incorporating a plastic-free mini-market on schemes – this could then equate to a saving of a staggering 210 million plastic containers. This is enough to cover 115 football fields! 
 

Build to Rent is still in its early years. This pipeline (and the plastic consumption of its residents) will only grow. But what an opportunity this creates to enable small changes, that actually have the potential to have a huge impact. 
 
Are you a residential investor and / or manager that is thinking about incorporating a refill station into your scheme? Or perhaps you already have one? We’d love to hear your thoughts

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