Environmental Issues Associated with Paints and Varnishes

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 25 November 2016

Environmental Issues Associated with Paints and Varnishes

The paint and coatings manufacturing industry is one of the major chemical processing industries. The major environmental impacts of paints and varnishes are concerning their content of solvents and other chemicals. There is a need to encourage manufacturers to use less of these substances, and to ensure proper environmental management throughout the manufacturing process. Procurement of paints and varnishes is classified as having a high environmental profile and some risk of developing world supply chains.

Summary of Life Cycle Record

Raw MaterialUse •Raw materials include solvents, pigments, dyes, and other chemicals. In addition, other raw materials are used to thin oil-based paints and stains or to clean up the residues left behind, such as turpentine and mineral spirits. •Some paints contain petroleum-based by products of the oil industry•The main uses of paints and varnishes are for architectural use (e.g. DIY), industrial use and automotive use. •VOCs may be released during use.

•Some paints can emit noxious gases such as toluene and xylene, which are known carcinogens.

ManufactureWaste Management/Disposal •The main components of the manufacture process are synthesis in a reactor, filtration, blending with other additives and packagingPaint related waste is often categorised as hazardous (special waste) due to its chemical content. Waste Management/Disposal options include:

•Recycling •Incineration

Key Impacts and Priority Mitigation Measures

The key impacts in relation to paints and varnishes are: •Raw materials are often non-renewable and can be based on oil solvents •Solvent release, more specifically releases of VOCs to the atmosphere, which contribute to ground-level ozone, global warming and some have specific health effects. (There are more VOCs in gloss than emulsion) •Dyes and other chemicals used can also be harmful to health and the environment. •Wastewater and other solutions from washing of brushes and other application devices might contain these pollutants. •Energy is used during the processing stages.

•Packaging materials are likely to contain traces of product / solvent residues, which can lead to direct release to the environment through evaporation. •Some paints can emit noxious gases such as toluene and xylene, which are known carcinogens. In 1989 the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found that professional painters and decorators face a 40% increased chance of contracting cancer. •Paint waste at end of life is classed as a hazardous (special) waste.

Control Measures – Raw Materials and Manufacture: •Implement a structured and independently verified Environmental Management System (EMS) such as ISO 14001 or EMAS. This will help the company use resources efficiently and prevent or minimise pollution. •Ensure systems are in place to control loss and wastage of toxic ingredients, in particular solvent management plans. •Avoidance of the use of heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, hexavalent chromium, mercury and arsenic; and other substances where possible. •Where possible replace toxic and persistent ingredients such as oil, solvents, chemicals and other hazardous substances with less toxic and more degradable ones. Particularly focus on lower solvent alternatives where possible.

Control Measures – Procurement Action: •Ensure suppliers selected have a high awareness of the potential environmental impacts and are taking the appropriate mitigation measures. •Encourage suppliers to develop environmentally “safer” products and in particular minimise the use of solvents and other chemicals and minimise waste during processing. •Avoid oil or solvent based paints where feasible.

•Be aware that some water thinnable paints contain more chemicals than the oil-based paints they are intended to replace. •Select suppliers that can provide more information regarding the specific raw materials they use, and also provide guidance on environmentally safe use and disposal (including packaging). •To avoid wasteful use of paints and varnishes ensure the purchase of only the amount required for the job. •Where feasible, select a supplier that will allow the return of toxic material packaging for reuse.

Control Measures –Use and Waste Management/Disposal: •Ensure employees are trained in actions to be taken in relation to waste minimisation, waste management and health and safety •Ensure proper labelling and storage of toxic and hazardous materials in secure, bunded areas. •Ensure user is trained in instructions for use including wearing of protective equipment such as facemasks, storage conditions (e.g. placing lids on containers when not in use) and cleaning of tools. •Ensure adequate ventilation during application.

Disclaimer: This document is based on publicly available information and provides details of the environmental impacts associated with paints and varnishes. It contains a description of most commonly used raw materials and the environmental impacts and by-products released. It should be noted that there might be some other commodity types and manufacturing processes not covered within this document.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 25 November 2016

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