The current projects that our R&D team are focused on touches on the following 3 themes:
A. The conversion of unwanted water-based paint into new paint products
Paintback is collaborating with BASF and Monash University (Clayton) on a three-year PhD program. 2 PhD students will commence in the program early next year to look at incorporating waste paint into alternative materials. At present, the collected water-based paint contains approximately 50% water, this is being removed via a water treatment plant to retain the solid sludge. The water is reused in an industrial cooling system and the sludge is sent to landfill.
Paintback is working with various companies to identify innovative concepts for a second life for reclaimed water-based paints, incorporating paint into a range of different items. We are also looking at recovering titanium dioxide from our collected water-based paints which is a valuable resource to the paint industry.
B. Recycling of unwanted plastic packaging
Most of the returned containers at a Paintback drop off point are large plastic containers of 10 litres and above. These would usually still contain small amounts of paint which makes recycling a challenge. The R&D team are working with a research partner to develop new technologies to clean the plastic containers and recycle them into new plastic paint packaging.
We are also testing a one-step processing method with an alternative research partner who specialises in recycling a range of contaminated plastics. The leftover paint and the plastic are turned into a composite material which will be used to make new products such as transport pallets and furniture. This will eliminate the resources required to remove leftover paint from the containers.
C. Process Improvements
Many companies are moving towards sustainable design principles for their packaging. We’re looking at how to make the plastic packaging more sustainable and robust. Our founding member companies are part of the Australian Packaging Covenant, who have developed guidelines for sustainable packaging development. We have developed sustainable packaging design guidelines for paint that align with these guidelines, that also meet the Australian Dangerous Goods Code, the Transport Packaging for Dangerous Goods – Recycled Plastics Materials and the Poisons Standard.
We’re conducting the first-ever life cycle analysis of all our business processes to accurately measure our overall carbon footprint.
Initially, by knowing our carbon footprint, we will know how many carbon offsets to buy to achieve zero net carbon emissions. In the longer term, we can look at how different processes contribute to our carbon footprint and find new technologies or activities to reduce them.