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The benefits of ‘green’ paint

Recycled, low VOC paints an environmentally-friendly choice for all property types
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Painting a property green can refer to more than just its colour.

Environmentally-friendly and recycled paints are readily available for projects of any size, whether a home or office building. These paints are not only better for the environment; savvy builders who use them can potentially earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points.

Here, Shayne Butcher of the Calibre Group of Companies explains how recycled and environmentally-friendly paints differ from their regular counterparts, and why they may be a good choice for a property owner’s next project.

How is recycled paint made?

Each province in Canada has its own paint recycling programs in place. Sometimes the governments organize the programs, while other times they contract it out to a third party.

In Alberta, the Alberta Recycling Management Authority administers and manages the contracts with private industry to collect, transport and process post-consumer paint. Municipal waste management sites collect any unwanted or leftover paints. Water-based latex paints are then sorted from oil-based paints and transported to a processing facility.

Here, workers inspect the paint to ensure it is still usable. They then take a range of latex paints and bulk them with similar colours to derive a finite and consistent number of final hues.

Due to the quantity of paint that is mixed together, the overall average gloss levels and colours remain consistent from batch to batch. Once batched, the paint is filtered and a small amount of biocide is added to rejuvenate it and extend its shelf life. The paint is then packaged in pails for sale.

What are the differences between environmentally-friendly and regular paint?

Virgin (or new) environmentally-friendly paint contains low to zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Standard (or regular) paint has a higher VOC content. When the paint dries, it releases these compounds. As they enter the atmosphere, they begin to attack and damage the ozone layer.

Also, for every gallon of regular paint produced, the mining and transportation of minerals and chemical ingredient production requires 100-kilowatt hours of energy. It produces 115 pounds of greenhouse gases and uses nine gallons of fresh water. This is why recycled paint is an even greener choice.

That said, virgin low VOC paint still requires a tremendous amount of resources and energy to produce.

Are there any incentives for property owners to use environmentally-friendly paints?

While virgin low VOC paint costs more than standard paint, it can qualify for LEED points in certain instances.

Recycled and low VOC paints can receive points for being low-emitting materials and containing recycled content. And by ensuring any leftover paint is recycled when a project is complete, the property can gain additional LEED points.

Has the demand for environmentally-friendly and recycled paint grown in recent years?

Public awareness of the availability of recycled paint has improved. However, the demand for recycled paint is only slowly increasing. Resistance remains due to the lack of colour selection.

To expand the number of primary colours available in recycled paint, companies require more demarcation of incoming post-consumer paint colours, resulting in smaller batch sizes.

Unfortunately, smaller batch sizes mean greater colour and sheen level inconsistency from batch to batch. While it is possible to add virgin pigments to recycled paint batches and create additional colours that are consistent – and some companies do this – the process reduces the positive environmental impact of the product. This is why some companies that specialize in completely recycled paint with no new pigments only produce a few dozen colours.

Shayne Butcher is president of Calibre Environmental Ltd. and co-president of the Calibre Group of Companies. Based in Calgary, Calibre is the manufacturer of EcoCoat, a recycled and low VOC latex paint with no virgin pigments.

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