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Are water based paints better for the environment?

Les Baker, Norglass Paints & Specialty Finishes, writes:

With over 50 years of water based paint usage, the thought of environmental pollution (as a product consumer) has always been of concern to me.

Unlike solvent based paints where the equipment is cleaned out and the waste residue stored or left for eventual evaporation, water based paints just go down the drain and into our oceans.

The follow estimates are calculated to stimulate or provoke interest.

Next time you use a tin of water based paint, take time out to reflect on your contribution to the environment.

4 litre can of water based paint usage
Clean-up operation (based on 2 applications per can)

Paint roller residue (1.5 egg cups full or 50 mls) x 2 = 100 mls
100 mis paint solution dissolved in 10 litres of water (usually drinking water)
Paint tray residue (25 mls x 2 times) = 50 mls
50 mls paint solution dissolved in 4 litres of water
Paint brush residue (same as for paint tray) = 50 mls

Estimate of 4 litre paint consumption is:
200 mls of water based paint is flushed out into our waterways with 18 litres of fresh water (conservation estimate) (or 9 mls per litre)

Volume of water based paint consumption in Australia P.A. = in excess of 50 million litres.

Now: consider the above assessments are overstated by 50%.

The net result is: each year we put into our Australian oceans 2.25 million litres of paint diluted with 22 million litres of fresh water (and in most cases drinking water) AND THIS IS ONLYOURBACKYARD!

Conversely, solvent based paints residues are dealt with in some of these matters:

  • Cleaning out a paint roller/brush involves storage of the contaminated solvent in an empty paint can or screw top glass jar.
  • Submerging the roller in water for re-use later, (same for brushes)
  • Wrapping in cling film and disposing of in household waste.
  • Leaving the residues to evaporate and then committing them to disposal.

Q. Considered globally … what are we doing to our aquatic soup in the claim of being environmentally responsible?

Photo credit: John Loo – some rights reserved

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