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Painting a Brighter Environmental Future

Date: 08-Jun-17
Author: Elise Catterall

Paintback Paint © Unsplash

The Australian paint industry is leading the way in combating waste, providing the first national program of its kind in the world. 

The quantity of paint discarded each year in Australia could fill three Olympic swimming pools – and much of that paint contains solvents and metals that can cause serious environmental damage. If paint related pollutants enter the stormwater system, it places both aquatic animals and plants at great risk of poisoning.

In May 2016, Paintback -  a pioneering national scheme developed, funded and implemented by industry -  was launched to encourage individuals and tradespeople to return unused paint by providing accessible and cost free collection points for waste paint and its packaging.

At the launch, Paintback stated that it aimed “To offer a collection service to 85% of the Australian population within five years.” In one year of operation, through the 50 collection points already established Australia-wide, Paintback has successfully diverted over 1 million litres of paint from reaching landfill.  With plans to establish even more collection points across Australia – an aim of 70 by this time next year -  the amount of paint and packaging diverted from landfill will continue to rise. 

Driving the scheme are many of the leaders of the paint industry: Dulux Group, PPG Industries, Valspar, Haymes Paint and Resene. Together, via their brands such as Wattyl, Taubmans, and Dulux, they produce more than 90% of all the architectural and decorative paint sold in this country.

Funds for the scheme were (and continue to be) raised by a 15% per litre waste levy applied to the wholesale price of domestic and commercial paint. The levy is funding the establishment of the next stage of collection points and is also being put towards research to find better uses for waste paint and its packaging.

Paintback is one of several options to dispose of domestic quantities of paint (Suez, are available for greater quantities, at a cost calculated per litre. Planet Ark has a handy location finder, Recycling Near You, to help you find the nearest centre, whether it be a Paintback collection point, a Community Recycling Centre or Household Chemical Cleanout event, or one of the many private collection facilities.

These collection facilities are a great answer to the existing waste problem, but like all things, the real key to managing paint and paint packaging waste comes down to awareness and prevention.  Planet Ark recommends buying only the amount of paint needed for the immediate job at hand - paint retailers can guide you to calculate the quantity you need.  Avoid being swayed by discounts for greater quantities; if you don’t need or use it, it is not economical. If you do have leftover paint, consider donating it via websites like Gumtree or Freecycle, or passing it on to a friend or neighbour. Planet Ark’s Pass it on webpage has many suggestions for giving away or finding unused or unwanted goods.

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Photo: William Felker, via Unsplash


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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.  


Elise                                             Catterall
Author: Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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