A Circular Solution for the Powder Coatings Industry
In October 2019, Brian Spicer, Co-Founder of Innovakote, gave a presentation on recycling powder coatings at the Powder Coating Summit in Columbus, Ohio. The presentation was eye-opening. The amount of powder coating overspray that is sent to landfills every year is astonishing. After the event I reached out to Innovakote to learn more about their company and the problem of powder coating waste.
PCI: What is Innovakote?
Innovakote: The simple answer - a powder coating manufacturer that utilizes waste powder coating as a raw material and re-extrudes it into a custom, color-matched product per the customers’ demands. The long answer - a company that was born from the idea of changing the powder coatings industry. Surplus Coatings of Kent City, Michigan, is a leading powder coating recycling company within the United States. While on a visit to China in 2016 to meet with recycle parters, Surplus Coatings owner, Dwayne Behrens, and COO, Brian Spicer, recognized the need for an extended type of recycling service for the powder coatings industry. Fast forward to 2019 when Innovakote came to life.
We are in an industry that promotes our core products as being environmentally friendly, yet we are filling our landfills with powder. Although the product and application process are better for the environment compared to our liquid counterparts, as an industry WE CAN DO BETTER! Innovakote solves the problem and can eliminate all waste powder coating. By using our equipment and color technology, we strive to eliminate the need for any powder coating to lay to waste in a landfill.
PCI: How much powder coating is disposed of (landfilled) each year?
Innovakote: It is estimated that in 2020, 1.8 billion pounds of powder coating will be sent to landfills worldwide. Just within the United States, our industry is landfilling 325 million pounds, or the equivalent of filling the Titanic twice a year and parking it in a landfill.
PCI: What is the recycled content that you use?
Innovakote: The recycled content that is supplied by Surplus Coatings is a combination of waste powder coatings. Waste powder coatings consist of collected over spray, expired, off-spec, reclaimed, or spray to waste powder coating. Through their analyzation and segregation of “waste powder,” they clean and prepare recycled content to be used by Innovakote. The amount of recycled content is dependent on the formulation and customer specifications desired. However, our goal is to achieve 95% recycled content in every batch!
PCI: What must be done to a powder coating to recycle it? How is the new product different than the original?
Innovakote: Innovakote utilizes over spray and waste powder coatings as an ingredient in our formulas and processes. We transform those ingredients into new, high-quality powder coatings.
Based upon the condition of the material that we reprocess determines how we handle it. If we are taking a single-color material and reprocessing it back to its original color, we sift it to remove any potential contaminates, blend it for consistency, extrude (melt/mix) it, and pulverize it, before sifting, packaging and performing QC testing.
However, if we are altering the color, gloss, surface profile, etc., we will have to add other powders with different color, gloss or surface texture effects, or raw materials and create a new formulation before going back into production, through those same steps listed above.
In most cases, the companies that supply us powder coatings (our ingredients) will provide us mixtures of all the coatings they spray. They do not have systems in place to separate a white powder coating from a black. Or a smooth powder coating from a texture. We receive mixtures of all colors, glosses and surface profiles mixed. It looks like a speckled coating when sprayed out. But after we re-process the material those speckles melt/mix to form a single color. Depending on the percentages of the colors applied in their facilities determines the lightness/darkness and hue the material becomes.
PCI: How does the performance of the recycled product compare with the original?
Innovakote: They will perform the same. If the performance was in anyway compromised, we wouldn’t be able to sell coatings back into the industry.
PCI: Who does Innovakote then provide the recycled product to?
Innovakote: Best recycling methods return recyclables back into their original form for the original purpose. We believe this methodology holds true for creating a circular economy within the powder industry. We are engaging with companies that are looking for more than just a coating, but also looking to have a better environmental impact. A circular economy within the powder coating industry creates the opportunity for a more sustainable industry, as well as creating a giant win for the environment!
PCI: How many times can a powder coating be recycled before it can’t be used any longer?
Innovakote: Because applicators utilize multiple coatings in their facilities, there will always be a fresh supply of new virgin coatings being sprayed and captured for landfill and/or recycling. Depending on the chemistry and formulation you could re-extrude the same coating multiple times before the performance properties of that singular coating start to degrade and fall outside of a customer’s specifications.
PCI: Some companies use reclamation equipment. What typically happens with this reclaimed/unused powder?
Innovakote: Companies that are using reclaim systems can effectively reuse their powder coating. Some reasons why companies can’t or won’t reuse the reclaimed powder coating include the following:
- The powder coating no longer meets specification after it passes by the substrate.
- If the company with the reclaim system changes colors a lot it becomes too time consuming and costly to purge and clean out the system between colors.
PCI: If a company is interested in recycling their powder coating waste, how do they send powder to be recycled?
Innovakote: Companies can contact us at 616-263-6889 to start the conversation. They will be on their way to recycling their powder waste in no time.