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March 02, 2008

On a roll: Recycling leftover paint

New paint products help Albertans brush up on environmental side

Sonya Procenko

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An estimated 30 million litres of paint are sold in Alberta each year, five to ten per cent of which ends up as leftover or waste paint, which can pose environmental and health risks. Alberta’s new paint stewardship program, managed by the Alberta Recycling Management Authority (Alberta Recycling), will enable Albertans to recycle used and leftover paint.

“We have to rethink our idea of waste—rather than being something to put in a landfill, it is often some-thing that can be transformed into a valuable resource.” says Rob Renner, Alberta Minister of Environment. “The paint stewardship program joins our other successful stewardship programs like electronics, used oil and tires. Paint is simply too good to waste.”

Beginning April 1, the program will put an environmental fee into place, ranging from ten cents to $1, depending on the size of the paint container.

The fee will be used to fund the cost of recycling the paint, operating the program and educating consumers.

Types of paint materials included in the program are latex architectural coatings, oil and solvent-based architectural coatings, and all aerosol paints and empty paint containers. Municipalities who currently collect leftover paints from householders— through collection depots, eco-stations and round-up events—will continue under the stewardship program.

The program is part of Alberta’s waste strategy dubbed Too Good to Waste. Its goal is to reduce waste disposal at landfills to 500 kilograms per capita by the year 2010. Now more than 800 kilograms per capita of waste are disposed of in landfills.

Calgary recycled paint manufacturer Calibre Envi-ronmental Ltd. (CEL) welcomes the new provincial paint stewardship program. “With the popularity, availability and real value of our premium quality ecocoat latex paint growing rapidly,” says Dean Brawn, vice-president of business development, “the Alberta Paint Stewardship program will help us grow the supply at the pace of demand while keeping more unused latex paints out of the waste stream.”
Premium quality ecocoat latex paint is a ten per cent recycled paint product good for interior and exterior use. It’s independently tested for safety and performance, ensuring it to be a safe, premium paint. The company keeps its pricing down because the 100 per cent product does not have the same production costs of virgin paint which can be affected by increasing costs of raw materials.

A choice of 14 colours of ecocoat is available at select retailers in western Canada or by contacting Calibre Envi-ronmental directly. The recycled paint performs well because by the time leftover paint arrives through the program, water has evaporated from the virgin product, leaving behind pigments and acrylic. Depending on the project and how it is applied (brush, roller or sprayer), an 18.9-litre pail of ecocoat should cover 1,500 to 2,500 square-feet of wood or drywall. Typically, the ten-litre pail can complete an average size room.

With its washable and scrubbable qualities of semi-gloss paint, ecocoat can be applied to a variety of substrates (including wood, drywall, concrete, block or stucco) inside or out, either as a primer and/or final coat. The recycled paint dries to the touch within 30 minutes and a second coat, if necessary, can be applied within an hour. “Paint contractors, commercial property managers and the general public are rapidly discovering the true value of ecocoat paint as a premium quality, but affordable choice,” says Brawn.

Natural, zero-VOC and low-VOC paints

The most environmentally-friendly and safest types are natural, and zero- and low-VOC (Volatile Organic Com-pounds) paints. VOCs are carbon-containing chemicals that evaporate at room temperature and can be toxic to humans.
The safest, natural paints, made from natural ingredients like water, plant oils, clay and chalk, can be more difficult to buy. Sustainable living website Earth Easy ( has a comprehensive list of natural, zero and low-VOC paints available on the market.

For example, The Real Milk Paint Company ( makes its non-toxic paint from milk, protein, lime, clay and earth pigments.
Most major manufacturers like Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore now produce zero- or low-VOC paints. Zero-VOC paint has five grams of VOC per litre or less. Low-VOC paint contains 200 grams of VOC per litre to six grams.

A GreenSure thing
Responding to a growing awareness of the green building movement, Sherwin-Williams has introduced the GreenSure designation for its environmentally preferred products. GreenSure is applied to the company’s coatings that offer long-term durability and the highest indoor air quality ratings with low VOCs and low odour.

So far Sherwin-Williams has two GreenSure coatings—Duration Home Interior Latex and Harmony Interior Latex. Duration Home Interior Latex has low-VOC waterborne formula, a lower odour, antimicrobial properties to resist mildew, and most stains wipe away easily with water or mild soap. Harmony Interior Latex is a zero-VOC, low-odour coating that allows immediate occupancy of newly painted spaces and resists mildew with antimicrobial properties.

Positive Aura

Recently, Benjamin Moore introduced its new Aura, a 100 per cent acrylic interior super premium paint which is washable and stain, water and colour-fade resistant.
For the environmentally-minded, Aura has very low VOC content—under 50 grams per litre— which meet the strictest VOC regulatory requirements in North America. With its entirely new waterborne colourant system, Benjamin Moore ensures no additional VOCs are introduced into the product when the colour is added.

“Not all paint is created equal,” says Carl Minchew, director of colour technology for Benjamin Moore. “Aura is the next generation of paint, formulated to provide the highest quality finish for those who demand only the best in their interior spaces.”  

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