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Painting Product Stewardship Success

February 2, 2016

Paint is a wonderful thing! It’s practical, as it protects both exterior and interior walls of buildings. And it’s great for adding color and flair to our living, work, and other spaces we frequent. Paint & Coatings Industry (PCI) Magazine recently reported, “U.S. demand for coatings is forecast to rise 4.2 percent annually to 1.5 billion gallons in 2017, valued at $30.6 billion.”

As a home owner I inherited a number of partially full paint cans, none of which of course were labeled. I’ve also put a little splash of color of my own around the place…there's the red, purple, and white room, and the lavender and lilac room, for example. The painters were slightly mortified; but I think the rooms are awesome. I also did the responsible thing: I labeled the cans and filed the paint swatches, so I have a record for any future needs.

paintcare-dropoff-la (CR. PaintCare CT)Fortunately, for those old, unidentified paint cans I may never use, Vermont passed legislation providing for paint product stewardship through the PaintCare program. Around the nation, its estimated that about 10 percent of the house paint purchased each year is ultimately discarded.

PaintCare Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created by the American Coatings Association (ACA), a membership-based trade association of the paint manufacturing industry. It was established to represent paint manufacturers (paint producers) in the planning and operation of paint stewardship programs in those states that have passed paint stewardship laws.

The first paint stewardship law was adopted in Oregon, in 2009.  ACA worked with state and local government stakeholders to help develop the legislation. Paint stewardship legislation has now been passed in seven additional states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.

The program provides residents in participating states with locations where they can drop off leftover paint at no cost. Most PaintCare locations are at paint retailers who volunteer to take back paint. Since retailers accept paint during regular business hours, the public has access to convenient paint recycling and disposal.

According to the program’s website, the paint manufacturing industry lent its support to product stewardship legislation, because “these laws enable the paint industry to implement a collection program by providing a level playing field among manufacturers and retailers.”

How the program works

PaiPaint-brochure-SPAN (2)nt stewardship legislation allows for a sustainable financing system for the programs. The program is funded through fees on each container of architectural paint sold in states with paint stewardship programs. Budgets and fees are set on a state-by-state basis. According to PaintCare, these fees are currently the same in each participating state: 35 cents, 75 cents or $1.60 per container, depending on the container size. Also, of significance for paint producers and retailers, the laws contain an anti-trust exemption for paint collection and processing activities.

PaintCare sites accept house paint and primers, stains, sealers, and clear coatings (e.g., shellac and varnish). The sites do not accept aerosols (spray cans), solvents, and products intended for industrial or non-architectural use. Paint must be in its original container, with the original label, and the containers cannot be larger than 5 gallons in size.

What happens to the paint?

About 2% of the paint is redistributed by household hazardous waste programs and retailers that sell salvaged building materials, such as Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Latex paint that is not redistributed is usually sorted by color, filtered, and mixed or blended together, sometimes with other virgin ingredients, to make recycled-content paint. Latex paint that is unsuitable for reblending can be an additive in other products, or dried and made into landscaping material. Oil-based paint is generally sent to a cement kiln (plants that manufacture cement) for energy recovery, because cement kilns use a lot of fuel.

PaintCare also has handy tips for “painting smarter.”

The benefits of paint product stewardship

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) recently released a report on its evaluation of the California paint stewardship program. PSI also assessed how paint stewardship relates to existing local government-run programs that collect household hazardous waste (HHW) from residents.

The reports highlight how the industry-run PaintCare stewardship program benefits retailers, residents, contractors, local governments, and the environment.

According to a press release from PSI, the key takeaways from the two evaluations include:

  • Retailers are highly satisfied with the PaintCare program: 85% of respondents from retail drop-off sites in California indicated that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the state's paint stewardship program; 88% indicated that they would recommend that paint retailers in other states participate in a similar recycling program.
  • Paint stewardship can save local governments money: 76% of HHW programs surveyed reported cost savings, at an average of $151,905 annually. In addition, PaintCare has covered more than $52 million in transportation and processing costs for leftover paint since 2009 - costs normally borne by local governments.
  • The PaintCare program creates more convenient options for residents: Before the California PaintCare program launched in October 2012, there were 144 paint drop-off sites in the state. There are now over 733 drop-off sites, including 583 at retail locations.

The PaintCare experience presents a model for other product stewardship opportunities in this country. Stakeholders from industry, government, and nonprofit organizations came together to design a program that is successful and with clear benefits for all parties.

By Athena Lee Bradley

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