From Waste to Paint: How GDB is Changing the Game in the Coatings Industry

by the team at GDB International, a PSI Partner

“The Earth is not a gift from our parents, it’s a loan from our children.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Last year, Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 28. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the entire year. We know paint and coatings manufacturing is resource-intensive, so over 25 years ago, GDB Paint & Coatings set out to design several solutions to promote a net-zero paint industry.

Put simply, GDB gives new life to leftover and discarded paint. These solutions include taking a variety of materials that would otherwise be discarded as waste and reusing them in a sustainable manner.

Why is recycling important?

  • Recycling a gallon of paint can save the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. Recycling paint needs much less energy than extracting and processing raw materials, as well as manufacturing new paint (PaintCare).
  • Paint recycling saves the use of natural resources, such as minerals and petroleum. Recycling one gallon of paint can conserve up to 8 pounds of virgin raw materials (US Environmental Protection Agency).

Where does the leftover paint come from?

  • The process begins by considering painters and DIY customers, who typically have leftover paint from domestic and industrial projects. This leftover paint makes up approximately 10% of the total paint used in the US annually.
  • Some of this leftover paint comes to PaintCare, a non-profit product stewardship organization created by the American Coatings Association. PaintCare works across US states that pass paint stewardship laws. The program has been established in California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont and, most recently, Washington and New York. GDB is a PaintCare partner and receives some of the collected paint, where it is sorted, processed and remanufactured.
  • Paint retailers and hardware stores often need to dispose of damaged products and mistints, which would also be considered waste.
  • Paint manufacturers also contribute to this waste with their leftover materials. These materials include paint that isn’t quite the right tint or quality and leftover materials from the paint production process. The production process generates “wash water” used to clean mixing tanks and pipes, which contains residual pigments, resins and solvents.
  • Lastly, raw material manufacturers may have stock that is too old to use or is not the right specification.

What does GDB do?

  • GDB has a long track record of reusing pre-consumer, post-consumer and post-industrial materials, which includes those aforementioned materials. The company cleans out any impurities and carefully analyses and blends the materials together to create new high-quality, affordable and eco-friendly paint.

What’s the impact?

  • In 2022, GDB reused paint and other materials leftover from consumers, retailers and paint manufacturers to make 3 million gallons of recycled paint – enough to paint all the homes in Salt Lake City. This achievement has significant environmental implications, as it not only reduces the amount of waste going to landfills but also saves resources by reusing the materials that would otherwise be wasted.
  • In addition to the environmental benefits, this process also has economic benefits. By reusing leftover materials, GDB can reduce the costs of production, which translates to lower prices for the consumers. Furthermore, it creates a sustainable business model, providing a competitive edge in the market by positioning the company as an environmentally responsible and innovative player in the paint industry.

GDB reprocesses dozens of truckloads of leftover and discarded paint every day. It has been a success story, not only for the company but also for the environment. The company’s dedication to sustainable practices has proven that eco-friendliness and economic prosperity can go hand in hand. It sets an example for other companies in the industry to follow and encourages consumers to make conscious choices in selecting products that have a positive impact on the environment.

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