The environmental impact of leftover paint is increasingly becoming a global concern. Paint is considered a difficult waste due to its liquid properties and also may contain solvents that can lead to groundwater and surface water pollution. Almost 80 million gallons of decorative paint is sold in the United Kingdom every year. An estimated 13-15 million gallons of this remains unused, as homeowners over buy. This paint is then left in sheds and garages for a number of years before eventually being disposed of in landfill.
With a background as an industrial chemist and 25 years of experience working in the coatings industry, Keith Harrison set up a pilot plant where he experimented with the possibility of recycling emulsion paint. After years of research, Harrison developed a process that enabled waste emulsion paint to be converted back to high-quality paint. He then set up Newlife Paints in 2008, but not without some challenges. There was difficulty in getting the Environmental Agency to agree that recycling waste emulsion paint is a low-risk activity, thus limiting the tons per week that could be treated. However, a new regulation was eventually put into place that enables “treatment of up to 5 tons a week of nonhazardous paint for re-use as full specification paint.”
A further challenge was the sourcing of waste paint. A substantial amount of paint is needed to ensure that enough can be produced for commercial selling. Non-flammable emulsion paint is sourced from household waste reclamation centers. Although the paint is sorted before it is delivered to Newlife Paints, it is resorted again to ensure there are no paints that could contaminate the delicate reclaim process. This results in an average of 2% of the paint received being rejected either because it is flammable (solvent-based) or because the paint is too old and would require too much work to recycle. Being an environmentally conscious company, Newlife Paints also sends the old paint cans they receive from the waste centers to be recycled, as they are too damaged to be re-used.
Once a batch of paint is ready to be processed, it is placed into a large drum. Although the batch of paint will be of the same color, the content will be of different quality, as the paints are likely to be from various manufacturers. It will also contain lumps and other contamination such as bits of plastic, paint brush hairs and cured skins. A specially adapted shear mixer is then used to mix the paint. The paint is homogenized until all the lumps and flakes are reduced and it is then checked for viscosity, total solids, pH and resin content.
Newlife Paints regulates its own quality, however it shadows ISO:9001. For each batch of paint made, a log is kept of what is used and the quantities used. The paint is also tested before it is processed further to ensure the color is correct both instrumentally and with a visual quality check.
One of the most important parts of the process is to ensure any remaining contamination is removed from the paint. A self-made in-line filter was initially used after mixing. However, the filter clogged frequently and resulted in softer polymer being extruded through the screen, and in turn contaminating the paint. Realizing the need to replace this filter, Harrison searched for filter suppliers and contacted Russell Finex to discuss his requirements. After a consultation with a technical representative, it became apparent that due to the current processing scale, a vibrating sieve would in fact serve the process and at a better value.
Russell Finex provided a successful on-site trial, screening paint through a Russell Compact Sieve®. The sieve’s compact design and ease of use impressed Harrison, and consequently the machine was rented. “The Compact Sieve is very easy to strip down and clean,” says Harrison. “In addition, the check-screener is clearly built to a high standard, and as a result out-performed other competitor vibratory screeners that we trialed.”
After testing the machine on loan, Newlife Paints bought the machine, realizing that it was a valuable investment. The Compact Sieve is mounted onto a stand high enough to fit a 55-gallon drum underneath it. The screener is hand fed, and once the paint passes through the screen, it is pumped into the paint cans. When an entire batch has been processed, the screener is instantly stripped down and cleaned. “As different batches of colors are processed through the same machine, a key benefit for the Compact Sieve is that there is no color contamination from one batch to the next, and cleaning only takes a matter of minutes.”
Newlife Paints has been widely recognized for its contribution to environmental protection, having received numerous awards, including Recycling Product of the Year 2010, the Sustainable Innovation Award 2010, Environmental Pioneer Awards – Pioneering Technology and Innovation, and the National Recycling Award 2010. The company has applied to get the process patented, which it can then freelance to other paint manufacturers.
The company is also working closely with some of the largest paint manufacturers to integrate waste management into their manufacturing process and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs.
As the company expands, Newlife Paints would like to extend its color range of decorative and masonry paints from 23 colors to 33 colors, and would also like to start providing different types of paints, including trim and fence paints. Harrison states, “As the business expands, we will need to find a bigger factory as production increases. We look forward to working with Russell Finex as our production expands to explore new screening and filtration possibilities.”
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