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5. International Product Stewardship Initiatives

A sample of the varying approaches and stages of product stewardship around paint internationally is shown below.

5.1. Paint Stewardship Program (British Columbia, Canada)

Effective September 1994, the Post-Consumer Paint Stewardship Program Regulation required producers and consumers of paints to take responsibility for the management of their leftovers or wastes. To comply with this regulation, producers of paints developed province-wide paint collection depots.

The Product Care and the Tree-Marking-Paint Stewardship Associations are non-profit associations formed in response to provincial regulations requiring brand owners of paint to establish a collection programme for leftover paint products and waste.

Product Care's programme provides consumers with a method to manage unwanted paints and waste, which comprise as much as 70% of British Columbia's household hazardous waste stream.

Product Care operates more than 100 depots across the province for consumers to return leftover paint and paint aerosols. There is no charge to drop off paint leftovers accepted by the programme. The Product Care programme also offers the paint exchange programme, where usable leftover paint is offered free of charge to non-profit groups and low-income families.

The Tree-Marking-Paint Stewardship Association was formed by brand owners and distributors of industrial aerosol paint to manage industrial aerosol containers. Industrial aerosol paint is sold primarily in bulk to the forest industry or surveyors for the marking of trees, roads and other surfaces.

With the enactment of the Environmental Management Act (EMA) on July 8, 2004, the Waste Management Act and the Environment Management Act were combined to create a single statute governing environmental protection and management in British Columbia.

The Recycling Regulation, enacted in October 2004, replaced the Post-Consumer Paint Stewardship Program Regulation. As such, the Recycling Regulation provides the statutory basis for the existing paint product stewardship programme, as well as providing a legal framework for establishing new programmes.

5.2. Product Stewardship Institute (USA)

Until recently, there have been no coordinated US-wide initiatives for the product stewardship of paint in the United States. It has been left to individual states, municipalities and some companies to take their own initiatives with mixed results. Some of the municipal-sponsored programmes have been curtailed or cut recently due to budget constraints.

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), a national non-profit organization, initiated dialogue on leftover paint in 2003 in response to concerns expressed by state and local government officials about paint's high volume in the waste stream, potential to impact human health and the environment, substantial costs to manage, and potential for increased reduction, recovery, reuse, and recycling. PSI estimates the cost to manage leftover paint on a national level to be over $275 million per year.

As part of an agreement signed or endorsed by 45 state and local governments, the paint industry association, a major retailer, the association of painting contractors, and others, a plan was announced in April 2005 to reduce the environmental impacts and cost of managing leftover latex and oil-based paint.

Participants agreed to implement 11 projects, at a cost of USD1.2 million, over 18 months that would provide information necessary for the development of a nationally coordinated, leftover paint management system.

In 2005, the National Paint and Coatings Association's (NPCA) Board voted to continue its participation in the dialogue and support the research agenda by funding four projects targeting consumer education, paint reuse, a life cycle cost/benefit assessment of managing leftover paint, and the promotion of health, safety, and environmental compliance for recycled and virgin paint products. NPCA represents over 90% of the paint and coatings manufacturers in the United States.

The results of the 11 projects are not available yet.

5.3. Initiatives in Australia

(Source: New South Wales Government)

About 61 million litres of household paint is consumed in Australia annually. About 11% is unused and is disposed of or stored, suggesting a potential waste stream of about 6.7 million litres (or 8,500 tonnes) per year.

Almost all paint producers or importers are members of the Australian Paint Manufacturers Federation (APMF). There are four major companies in the Australian market, namely, Orica, Wattyl, Barloworld and Akzo Nobel, with the last manufacturer focussing only on industrial coatings. Between them, they have a combined market share of more than 50%.

The remaining 50% comprise several smaller paint manufacturers and importers, most of which are also members of the APMF. Paints comprised 45% (217 tonnes) of the material collected in the NSW Chemical Cleanout programme in 2003-04.

There is no industry contribution to this state government-run scheme. The cost relating to collection and recovery of paints under the programme is estimated to be more than $700,000 per year.

The industry's current focus is only on educating and encouraging consumers to return unused paint to existing waste transfer stations and landfills and through the NSW Chemical Cleanout programme. The industry has stated that the cost of establishing and operating new infrastructure to recover leftover paints is prohibitive but the cost barrier has not been clearly demonstrated.

One or two companies have conducted trials on paint collection and reprocessing but there is no whole-of-industry approach. Trials have included:

  • Collection of leftover household paint deposited at the Lucas Heights Landfill by Waste Service NSW (now WSN Environmental Solutions) and the APMF between November 2002 and May 2003. About 2,500 kg of light-coloured water-based paint was collected but only about 100 kg was reusable. Of the 2,016 cans collected, 92% were four-litre cans and under.
  • A weekend paint collection trial by Orica (makers of Dulux paint), Bunnings, the APMF and EcoRecycle Victoria at a Bunnings store car park in Victoria in March 2003. About 1,800 litres of paint were collected and a portion was reconstituted and resold as fence paint.
  • A second trial by Orica, Bunnings and EcoRecycle Victoria in conjunction with Chemsal and Blue Scope Steel. Leftover paint was collected over the counter in a Bunnings store for a one-month period in April 2004. About 42 tonnes of unused paint (including cans) were collected, of which 68% was water-based and 32% was solvent-based. From this, about 6,300 litres of water-based paint returned to the market as fence paint and 10 tonnes of metal cans were recovered for metal recovery.
  • A third year-long trial has started recently in Victoria in one Bunnings store in Melbourne with the same partners as the second trial.

To date, there is no clear evidence of a national product stewardship scheme for paint emerging in Australia, although some tentative steps appear to be underway at a state level (Victoria only at this stage).