The environmental impact of the coatings used by the commercial coatings industry is an ongoing discussion (sometimes cooperative and sometimes not) with the environmental community. Ever tighter environmental regulations are being put in place, seemingly every year. One tool in the race to reduce environmental impact of unused paints is to increase the amounts that are recycled.

Recycling paints on an industrial level is not as easy as it sounds. There is always concern that the recycled paint will not meet the minimum quality standards of new paints. It is also more difficult to meet the volatile organic compound (VOC) requirements when you are not controlling the initial production of the product.

Certainly efforts in years past by industrial paint manufacturers have supplied low VOC coatings for use by the industry. Governmental standards have been put in place. In addition, nongovernmental certifications have been developed by various organizations such as Green Seal (a nongovernmental organization – NGO). These standards are often more stringent than governmental requirements.

However, the certification of recycled coatings has been more problematic. That has begun changing. A new standard for recycled paints has been developed. Industries like paint manufacturers, recyclers and industrial painting contractors have come together, in conjunction with two NGO’s (the Product Stewardship Institute and Green Seal), to put the new standard in place.

This new standard addresses a huge problem faced by hazardous material recycling centers. The Product Stewardship Institute states that it costs an estimated $500 million dollars a year to deal with leftover paints annually. That doesn’t begin to measure the impact of volume alone on landfills.

To be certified as recycled paint, the paint must meet several certification standards. It must receive the seal of approval by the Master Painter Institute stating that it meets virgin paint standards of performance. Of course, it must also meet any applicable federal and state VOC standards. Only after recyclers go through on-site audits, annual monitoring and actual product evaluations will their paint be certified as acceptable.

Once certified, the paint will meet or exceed the performance of any virgin paint on the market. Not only will it help protect the environment by meeting VOC standards, it will also reduce the impact of producing virgin paint. The need for less petrochemical derivatives will reduce the needs for increased oil production. Mining of such minerals as titanium oxide can be reduced, thus lowering the impact on our land. There will also be less energy used in production.

The commercial painting industry has a long history of reducing the impact on our environment; recycled paint is simply one more step in our progress toward a greener planet. What is your company doing to help reduce its environmental impact?

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