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Plastics in new home construction
Mark Purdy
August 21, 2013 - 1:29 am

I was greeted by a shocking sight on arrival at a roofing job this morning…millions of tiny expanded polystyrene bits all over the ground! They are the result of cutting large polystyrene blocks that are used instead of hardfill beneath the concrete floor slab on many new homes.

I’m sure most of them will end up in the ocean eventually :( Seeing this made me think about how much plastic goes into virtually every new home nowadays–plastic strapping, building wraps, polystyrene based siding systems, PVC mouldings for many purposes, damp proofing beneath floors and between timber and concrete, plumbing & electrical fittings, pipes, joiners & end caps for steel spouting, PVC siding and spouting systems–and huge amounts of packaging waste from all these and many other items.

August 22, 2013 - 11:56 am

I had this similar shock myself a few months ago when our neighbours did a huge addition of a second story to their bungalow. I came home one day to find my car, my drive way, our lawn… all covered in snowfall of white polystyrene bits.  I almost had a heartattack as our homes back onto Lake Ontario and I could just imagine how much of the white plastic stuff had already been carried by the wind into the lake. When I called out to the contractor, he looked at me like I was crazy, and he said “well, the whole house is being covered in Stucco, and the only way to get a smooth finish is to shave the polystyrene walls flat before applying the stucco finish”.  Well that wasn’t good enough for me, we called the city of Toronto, and they immediately sent someone over from the EPA. The contractor was fined for not taking to  but it was already too late to do anything about the bits in the lake.

It got me thinking about all of the homes being remodeled in our city, with the same stucco finish, and I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. I started digging around and found out that there is now bylaw against containing those pesky shavings specifically and contractors are not required by law to cover their work area with anything to contain the flying polystyrene. Unfortunately, polystyrene is not going anywhere, as the marketing for it touts it as being environmentally friendly (for it’s insulation properties) and lasting 1000 years (people seem to think durability is great, but they don’t think that it will be in a landfill in 50 years when new home owners rip it out for the sake of newer, trendier homes.) I’m not sure what the solution is, and would love to know an alternative to suggest to my neighbours who are all turning their tiny lakeside cottages into sprawling 3 storey mansions.

Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator
August 23, 2013 - 11:06 pm

Wow, I had no idea. Thank you for posting this. My dads a contractor and I’m going to ask him more info about this to see if he’s aware of an alternative. 

August 25, 2013 - 8:58 pm

I have a friend who is really interested in alternative home building methods and he posts a lot of stuff about the topic on facebook.


I had to dig through his wall for an example because he posts different things on facebook every 5 minutes :P but here is an example of what i’ve seen:…


It’s an extremely niche market so I can’t image these building methods becoming popular anytime soon, even though that would be awesome. They definitely provide interesting alternative home building ideas and some pretty cool houses. I don’t know much more about it because all I know is from what he posts on facebook, but it’s a cool thing to look into.


Maybe one day this will be the norm!

August 26, 2013 - 7:03 am



They are made out of recycled bottles and tires. They have solar panels and water collection. They are self heating and cooling. They come with a built in green house. They can be in any climate. Not to mention they can be beautiful!!!


One of my best friends went to the Earthship Academy to learn how to build them and now could build them anywhere. I would be happy to put anyone interested in learning more about earthships in touch with her. She lives in Toas now where the academy is on the Earthship complex.


Watch some of the videos on the website about how they are made. Fascinating and brilliant. Or read about all the amazing build projects they have all over the WORLD.




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