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Recycled paint moves a step closer to the mainstream

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Seymourpowell began by experimenting with different technologies and processes for extracting the unused paint from tins.

Design and innovation firm Seymourpowell has publicised details of its work with Dulux-owner AkzoNobel and Newlife Paints, creating a new technology “to recycle paint more cost-effectively and on a large scale for the first time”. Over 400 million litres of paint gets sold in the UK each year but 13% of it goes unused; amounting to 55 million litres in total. The new technology apparently mechanizes the process of decanting unused paint from tins, helping save resources and reduce landfill.

Dulux-owner AkzoNobel teamed up with paint chemist Keith Harrison, who has perfected the technique of re-engineering unused paint back into a good quality recycled paint product. Seymourpowell’s task was to create the machinery and technology to overcome the technical and commercial challenges of scaling up Keith’s innovative recycling process and bringing it to the mainstream.

Chris Sherwin, Sustainability Consultant at Seymourpowell commented, “One of the major technical problems with recycling paint is that it’s very difficult to decant from tins. The process is labour-intensive and expensive because it all has to be done by hand. Our first challenge was to discover the very best way of harvesting all of the unused paint in the most cost-effective way. We started by setting up a paint recycling station in our workshop.”

Seymourpowell began experimenting with different technologies and processes for extracting the unused paint from tins. They tried blowing it out with high-pressure air jets, using vibrations to shake it out, crushing and squeezing the tins, and using a huge ‘worm-screw’ to crush tins and drain paint at the same time. However, none of these methods really worked. Eventually they discovered a powerful industrial vacuum cleaner that could suck the paint out of the tin quickly and efficiently.

The team developed and adapted the suction technology to make it more suitable for paint recycling and created a large prototype to extract unused paint on an industrial scale. The concept was then trialed with waste management company Veolia, who plan to recycle paint commercially, which was a resounding success. The trial showed that Seymourpowell’s concept allows paint to be recycled four times faster and at one-seventh of the cost of the previous methods. The technology also leaves tins clean enough to be recycled straight away, is cost-effective to scale up and is easy and green to clean.

Once they knew the technology worked, Seymourpowell then set about developing a series of recycled paint propositions to test the market and appetite for recycled paint products in the market

Chris Sherwin, Sustainability Consultant at Seymourpowell, continued, “We discovered significant interest from customers and this is being taken forward by AkzoNobel. We’re also planning to develop a smaller paint suction prototype for smaller paint recycling operations too. This project has been really rewarding to work on because we’re creating a real, live example of a circular economy and because this is such a fledgling process.”

David Cornish, AkzoNobel Resource Efficiency Manager commented, “Redesigning the way paint gets recycled is fraught with challenges, but Seymourpowell managed to combine creativity with technical ingenuity to create a really effective new solution. This is certainly helping turn our circular economy strategy into a reality”

Keith Harrison, Managing Director, Newlife Paints commented, “Working with Seymourpowell has helped us with some of the challenges of recycling waste paint. To have designers able to look at our project in a fresh light, created new ideas, new thinking and approaches to solve our problems.”

Seymourpowell will continue to work with AkzoNobel and Newlife Paints to develop the technology further and expect to release further details of progress later in 2016 and beyond.

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