The environmental impact of sustainability in paints and coatings

February 29, 2016

There are many ways to define sustainability, but when most people hear the word “sustainable,” they immediately think “green.” Often the most important, long-term sustainability goal for businesses is having environmentally responsible products and practices – those that lessen or eliminate negative impacts on the environment. Environmentally sustainable practices can have long-lasting effects, from preserving the quality of essential manufacturing resources such as water, to reducing the energy consumption of production plants and office facilities.

How can companies that produce paints and coatings incorporate green thinking in their businesses? Here are some ways paint and coatings producers are reducing the environmental effects of their processes and products.

Waste disposal

Paints and coatings companies produce tons of packaging waste, production waste and cleaning waste in their operations. Many facilities fill dumpsters and barrels full of waste, which are later hauled away for treatment or disposal. While the manufacturing waste generated by a company cannot be completely eliminated, there are steps that can be taken to reduce it. The key to waste reduction comes back to the “Three Rs”: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Developing systems or procedures that reintroduce already used or excess material back into the production processes is one of the most effective ways to reduce waste. Away from the production floor, examine the everyday items in your facility that could potentially end up in a landfill – cardboard boxes, wooden pallets, office paper, metal drums – all of which are relatively easy to recycle or repurpose. It may take some creativity and investment, but it’s worth the effort to consider all of the uses for wood, metal and paper.
At Chromaflo, for example, we reuse flammable cleaning solvents by an on-site distillation process. The used waste solvent is collected, distilled and reused, and this has eliminated up to 85 percent of flammable cleaning waste that was previously shipped out for treatment or disposal.

Product composition
In the past, it was common for paint and coatings companies to use environmentally hazardous chemicals, such as VOCs, in their industrial and architectural coatings products to achieve certain properties. But as technology has advanced, the industry has introduced more sustainable options for pigments and additives, many of which deliver the same or better results in the final product. Some examples include low-VOC or zero-VOC products, UV-cure coatings, IR reflective technology or others that may help coatings companies and their customers with environmental stewardship.
Need help updating your product formulas? Ask your colorant supplier and other vendors to work with your lab technicians to help you source materials that both minimize the presence of environmentally harmful chemicals in your products and meet your customers’ product specifications.

Why go green?
Stating you are being environmentally responsible helps keep investors and customers happy, and it looks good on paper. But businesses should also consider the very real monetary and economic benefits of using environmentally responsible business practices. Reducing energy or other resource consumption in production processes can have a positive impact on overall operating costs.
By recycling production waste, the amount of new material purchased is reduced, thereby improving the bottom line. This also minimizes the cost and energy used to dispose of that waste.
In addition, being a green business helps the local and regional community – which is the second customer base. The community customers also want us to be a good steward of the air, water and soil they use every day. The steps your business takes to protect the environment, will affect their lives, and therefore, how they think of your company.
Finally, employees want to work for a company that practices environmental responsibility. Your employee base is also part of your community, and you want employees to feel like you are taking care of them through your business practices. When you do, they’ll be more motivated to come to work every day, and do an outstanding job producing high-quality products for your customers and preserving the environment for future generations.

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