AkzoNobel to ‘ReColour’ communities with paint recycling project

Three million litres of waste paint will be diverted from landfill and re-used by local communities in the UK every year, thanks to a new collaborative remanufacturing project fronted by AkzoNobel.

The ReColour project, announced at an event in Westminster yesterday (20 October), will see a paint remanufacturing plant – capable of producing 60,000 litres of new paint every year – developed in Cambridgeshire .

The plant will be run by social enterprise group CCORRN in partnership with recycled paint specialist Newlife Paint and Community RePaint, which will redistribute the paint to those in social need. The paint will be available in a number of colours and will be sold at a minimal cost to community groups and those in social need.

AkzoNobel, whose paints brands include Dulux, Cuprinol and Hammerite, plans to develop four more ‘remanufacturing hubs’ across the UK over the next 18 months, to bolster the Dutch firm’s Planet Possible sustainability strategy – an ongoing commitment based on the premise of “doing more with less”.  

“People support this plan because it’s such a simple idea,” said AkzoNobel’s global sustainability manager David Cornish. Everybody ‘gets’ recycling – I do think that it is a natural characteristic of the British to not waste things.

“Just about everybody I’ve talked to about this project intuitively understands that turning old paint into a resource for brightening up local communities is a great thing to do.”

More than 55 million litres of waste paint is currently sent to landfill or incinerated in the UK every year. AkzoNobel is therefore calling on government and industry to get behind its new initiative and “unite to solve the UK’s waste paint problem”.

‘Common sense’

Specifically, Cornish wants to see the UK Government taking a “common-sense approach” to waste regulations and provide  better support to community projects like this.

Speaking to edie after yesterday’s event, Cornish said: “The Government needs to set out the difference between blind obedience and common sense. We don’t want to make it easier for people to do bad things but there is a lot of need for people to understand what we’re trying to do and make it easier for us, and advise us.

“Central government needs to offer some firm guidelines on what it wants to achieve with waste recycling. Talking about a national target while four hundred local authorities each do their own thing makes no sense at all.”

Cornish argued something similar at another event in Westminster last month, where he called for more consistency and better support from Government around remanufacturing in the UK. 

AkzoNobel, which is the world’s largest paint and coatings company, used yesterday’s event to release a new report which outlines the key challenges facing the paint industry in its transition to a circular economy.

Business case

Those challenges include how to get back large volumes of left-over, unwanted paint from people’s homes; how to simplify regulations to make remanufacturing viable for social enterprises; and how to remanufacture and distribute the new paint at a cost low enough to make it affordable for social reuse.

Cornish concluded: “We do understand that cash-strapped local authorities can’t do anything that increases their costs and that a cold, hard business case needs to be made here.

“We are convinced that recycling waste paint is a genuine cost-saving opportunity for local councils – and perhaps the key objective of this paper is to find a way of starting a dialogue with them.”

Writing in an exclusive blog for edie earlier this week, AkzoNobel’s corporate director of sustainability André Veneman explained the importance of “trusted partnerships” to drive emissions down and accelerate the transition to a circular economy.   

Veneman wrote: “No one business is able to close loops or build circularity into their operations by themselves. Partnerships, with other companies, government bodies, charities and consumers, have been crucial and will continue to be so.”

Akzonobel is a finalist in edie’s 2015 Sustainability Leaders Awards, for the employee engagement and behaviour change category.

Luke Nicholls

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