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Waste Not
Project Recover Exploring Viability, Options for Eliminating Paint Waste

Global design and innovation firm Seymourpowell today announced a collaboration with leading global paint company AkzoNobel Decorative Paints to explore and improve the process of recycling used paint — thus closing the loop of paint production.

As part of a project jointly funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, Seymourpowell has made an educational video highlighting the possibilities and benefits of paint recycling, and has also identified a completely new technology to help scale and speed up the paint-recycling process for greater business viability.

In the UK alone, over 300 million litres of paint are bought each year, with as much as 15 percent going to waste, in the majority of cases ending up in landfill, according to Community Repaint. Combine this with a the rising costs of raw materials required to make paint, such as titanium dioxide, and the business case for exploring cost-effective methods of recycling paint is stronger than ever.

Part of the project saw Seymourpowell and AkzoNobel consult with two existing paint-recycling enterprises — Newlife Paints, based in Ford, West Sussex (currently sold in 170 B&Q stores around the UK), and Castle RePaint Scotland, a social enterprise based in Fife. Both provided valuable insight into the current problems with paint recycling. Three main challenges presented themselves:

  • collecting used paint — according to Community Repaint, the average UK household has 17 half empty or unused tins of paint in storage, so collecting these represents a significant task.
  • selling recycled paint — there remains the issue of brand and customer perception of quality in recycled vs new paint.
  • reprocessing ‘used’ paint — removing paint from old tins, remixing and so on. Significant progress needs to be made in reprocessing used paint to make it commercially viable. As part of the brief on this project, Seymourpowell identified a completely new technology which halves the decant time of old paint, greatly improving the recycling process.

Chris Sherwin, head of sustainability at Seymourpowell commented, “Paint recycling is a real area of opportunity, economically and environmentally, yet faces many design challenges to become viable. Our initial area of work has been to help improve the actual recycling process itself. By halving the time it takes to remove the old paint from used tins, we believe we can dramatically scale-up and speed-up of the process, making it far more viable for businesses facing rising costs on raw materials.

“Many people believe that sustainable innovation is about as interesting as watching paint dry, but we’ve found this one of the most exciting innovation challenges Seymourpowell has faced in recent years,” Sherwin added. “We’ve loved the opportunity to work on such a fledging process, and to support such a worthy cause. We are excited to continue working with AkzoNobel, and others, to further develop our promising paint recycling technology. All this can be better for business, consumers and the planet.”

David Cornish, Global Sustainability Manager of Resource Efficiency at AkzoNobel said, “This collaboration really helped us think through some of the tricky challenges of paint recycling. It’s an exciting area for us, but needs improving to become commercially attractive. Seymourpowell’s animation will certainly help us communicate the opportunities internally in order to bring the weight of our resources behind this research. We look forward to continue working together to further investigate this new paint recycling technology and how we and others might make use of it.”