Britain Throws Away 20 Olympic Swimming Pools of Paint a Year – Let’s Recycle It

Despite a positive shift in attitudes about waste and recycling in recent years, there is one household product which is still being wasted in scandalous quantities: paint.
Nov 17, 2016 9:00 AM ET

Written by David Cornish, Global Sustainability Manager Resource Efficiency, Decorative Paints, AkzoNobel

Over 400 million litres of paint are sold in the UK each year, but 13 percent of it will eventually be thrown away. That’s 55 million litres of paint – enough to fill 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools – ending up in the bin every year.

Frustratingly, almost two thirds of wasted paint is of good enough quality to reuse. We don’t just see leftover paint, we see potential. We know how transformative paint can be in our living spaces, and we also recognize that paint represents a major cost for charities and people in need.

There is an opportunity here – both to reduce waste and bring more color to our communities. But it requires us all to be more proactive. The average household has 17 tins of half-used paint in cupboards, sheds and garages; how can we put them to good use? 

Innovative Solutions 
Several AkzoNobel initiatives in the UK are helping to answer that question. Since 1993 AkzoNobel brand Dulux has supported Community RePaint, a network which re-distributes leftover paint to individuals, families and communities in need. Many local recycling centres now host donation points.

Dulux has also collaborated with Community Repaint and other partners to develop an innovative method of remanufacturing donated paint into a good quality recycled product. Together we recently launched a second paint recycling facility to build on the success of our first facility in Cambridge, which has already produced 10,000 litres of recycled paint for distribution to over 1,300 causes and individuals across the UK.

The recycled paint is making a tangible difference. In Cumbria, where towns experienced devastating floods, the charity CERT UK has distributed pallets of recycled paint so people can get back into their homes and businesses. And in South Shields, recycled paint is being used by the Emmaus charity to transform a derelict building into a residence for the formerly homeless.

A More Sustainable Future
The difference a splash of color can make cannot be underestimated. Not only can color have a positive effect on our well-being, it can also energize communities and give people a sense of place and identity. There are so many worthy uses for wasted paint.

With the treatment of waste paint still lagging behind positive trends in sustainability, we are advocating for change. AkzoNobel’s ambition is to produce 100,000 litres of remanufactured paint by the end of 2017, and to increase the amount of waste paint collected for reuse in the UK to three million litres by 2020.

In a world of finite resources, we need to do more with less. That is the message behind Planet Possible, our sustainability strategy at AkzoNobel. Our paint recycling initiatives have shown that thought and collaboration around the stuff we throw away can make a positive difference for the environment, reduce costs for local authorities and actually improve people’s lives.