Could Defra paint a circular economy picture for the coatings industry?

EXCLUSIVE: The UK Government has been urged to procure paint for building renovations from recycled waste streams to accelerate a circular economy in the coatings industry, which is attempting to address "challenging issues" of paint disposal.

Speaking to edie ahead of next week’s edie Live exhibition (scroll down for details), the British Coating Federation’s (BCF) chief executive Tom Bowtell revealed that the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Minister for Waste Rory Stewart has been discussing the potential procurement of recycled paint from BCF members in order to address challenges “related to markets and regulations”.

“We’re trying to raise the ability and potential to improve paint recycling through conversations with stakeholders,” Bowtell said. “We’ve been working for five years to get support from both the industry and the Government to work together to increase the amount of re-manufacturing and to grow the circular economy.”

With the BCF estimating that 55 million litres of leftover paint is generated in the UK each year – 98% of which is either incinerated or sent to landfill – Bowtell has been communicating with Government officials, urging them to set an example by procuring recycled paint in an attempt to open market revenue streams.

Bowtell revealed that, after numerous conversations with members from Defra and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), BCF’s PaintCare initiative – which attempts to introduce a level of “paint stewardship” through remanufacturing models – has finally “entered the Government’s radar”.

“Government talks have been a challenge of late because, even though this is a big problem, it was formed in a niche sector of the waste stream,” Bowtell added. “With the Conservatives being less regulatory driven, we’ve had no external push for change. We’ve been waiting to get on their radar for about five years.”

Niche issues

While issues over paper and plastic recycling are common amongst the media headlines – and prominent within Government conversations as a result – a lack of awareness over paint recycling has meant that organisations have had to push internally to gain traction with this issue.

With talks over a circular economy held between the BCF and Stewart back in November, Bowtell is continuing to push the agenda alongside Paul Beresford, the local MP for Leatherhead – where BCF is based – and is now working with big paint brands who are waiting for an incentivised market to emerge before rolling-out recycled products.

“We need to find different routes to market,” he said. “If the Government were to start doing it, then it opens the door for big paint brands to introduce re-manufactured paint because there’s a target market. We need a tangible end market and the Government can provide this and grow the sector by introducing a sustainable manufacturing process.”

Paint manufacturers such as AkzoNobel – which recently launched the Community RePaint programme – are ready and willing to adapt circular products. And Bowtell is hoping for more circular economy progress from the industry within the next year. If the market emerges, Bowtell says BCF will need to continue to communicate with recycling firms and facilities – many of which won’t accept liquid paint – in order to bring about wholesale change in how paint waste is managed.

“Eventually we’ll have to get all of the household recyclers to collect liquid paint,” he concluded. “The reason they don’t is down to costs and if you start accepting a new category which costs too much money, people aren’t going to be motivated to do so.

“If we can get a market through the Government, hopefully it will stimulate these facilities to start accepting paint more widely.”

Tom Bowtell at edie Live

Tom Bowtell will be speaking on the Resource Efficiency Theatre at edie Live next week, discussing how disruptive partnerships and collaboration can change the world for the better, alongside associates from Nestlé, Ecolateral and Solutions for the Planet.

If you manage your company’s energy, sustainability, environmental or corporate responsibility, then two days at edie Live will give you a free pass to all the learning, peer-to-peer networking, innovative suppliers and inspiration you need to drive sustainability through your organisation.

View the full edie Live agenda and register to attend for free here.

Matt Mace

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