Posted by: Diane Capuano
In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to give you a quick rundown of eco-friendly paints and coatings, as originally reported in the March “green” issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer magazine.
“Greener” Paint Formulations
Over the past two decades, the green efforts of the paint industry have been focused on creating formulations with lower Volatile Organic Compounds—or VOCs for short. In an increasing number of cases, the content of paint has reached zero VOCs while the performance has stayed high or even surpassed those of the higher-VOC counterparts.
While the impetus for lower-VOC formulations has been governmental regulations, the paint industry has proven up to the challenge of providing products that perform well and meet consumer demand for low-odor, easy application and easy cleanup.
“The legislation is driving lower VOC s from an air-quality standpoint, but there is also an increasing demand for these products for consumers who are environmentally conscious, want a paint that is low odor, or in many cases both,” said Tom Dougherty of PPG Architectural Finishes. “We’re staying well ahead of the curve to provide new low- or zero-VOC products that are better than their higher-VOC counterparts.”
Dougherty referred to PPG’s Pure Performance®, a high-performing zero-VOC interior paint that was the first of its kind. “It was the first national zero-VOC paint that was recognized for having the performance standards of a standard interior paint,” Dougherty explained, adding that the product is also free of crystalline silica and contains an anti-microbial. “It has virtually no odor. You can paint a room today and occupy it tonight.”
Over the past several decades, Benjamin Moore has been on the forefront of introducing low- and no-VOC paints and now has a full portfolio of these products under its “Green Promise” logo. Benjamin Moore has pledged that products will only carry the “Green Promise” designation if it meets or exceeds the standards established by the Green Seal®, Greenguard®, MPI® and California CHPS programs. These standards ensure that the products have low- or no-VOC content, are free of such chemicals as formaldehyde, crystalline silica and other carcinogens, and also maintain performance criteria such as hide, scrubbability and adhesion.
The Benjamin Moore “Green Promise” logo includes several premium-quality products. Among those at less than 50 g/L of VOCs are: Aura®, the company’s finest-quality paint; ben®, offering premium quality and great value; Regal® Select, a paint and primer together; and the company’s waterborne ceiling paint, featuring outstanding hide. There are also several products with zero-VOCs, including EcoSpec® WB, the “greenest” premium commercial product; EcoSpec® WB Silver, which uses the known antimicrobial properties of silver to create a mildew-resistant coating; and Natura®, the greenest possible paint offering premium performance and virtually no odor.
“Natura is a breakthrough product that has been has been cleaned of everything harmful we can measure on the green front,” said Carl Minchew, director of product development for Benjamin Moore.. Natura exceeds the toughest paint-emissions standards in the industry, as confirmed by an independent laboratory that uses California’s Collaborative for High Performance Schools indoor air quality tests.
Benjamin Moore’s low-VOC paints are all compatible with the company’s innovative Gennex platform, the first-of-its-kind, zero-VOC, waterborne retail colorant system. “When paint is tinted with the Gennex colorant system, zero-VOC stays zero-VOC,” Minchew explained. “It will remain zero-VOC in whatever color the consumer wants. Many people are pleased with the low odor, but they also like the fact that paints such as Aura and Natura are easy to use, brush well, flow well, and offer great durability and fade resistance. Some of our customers are more interested in green paints than others, but all of them are interested in paints that perform.”
Other paint and coatings manufacturers are addressing the issue of keeping VOC content at zero levels even after the paint is tinted. Mythic Paint, whose entire lineup is zero-VOC and toxin-free, provides a full range of colors with a color system that adds no VOCs when the paint is tinted. This holds true for even very deep colors.
California Paints has introduced a new zero-VOC colorant system, known as Trillion, that has been very well received by its dealer base. Developed in Europe, the system features super-strength, zero-VOC colorants that enhance the hiding properties of the paint. Trillion can be used to tint all of California Paints’ product lines, including the zero-VOC paint ELEMENTS.
In addition to zero-VOC ELEMENTS, California Paints manufactures ENVIROTECH, a commercial-grade paint with zero-VOCs. Both product lines are LEED-compliant, have earned GREENWISE certification and meet the criteria for the company’s own Enviro-Quality Quotient. Not only are these products better for the environment than traditional paints, but Boyajian contended that they perform better.
“Technology has come a long way in the last couple decades,” said Ron Boyajian, Vice President of Product Development and Technical Sales for California Paints. “Low- and zero-VOC paints are at least as good, if not better, than they products they replaced. I don’t think we could have said that eight or 10 years ago.”
Daniele Martin, marketing manager for The Muralo Co. Inc., cited the recent development of Breathe Safe™, a virtually odorless paint line that is free of VOCs, as an example of Muralo’s continuing commitment to environmentally friendly products. “The use of unique chemistry technologies in Breathe Safe Zero VOC has allowed the product to be user-friendly,” she said. “The properties found in regular products have not been sacrificed.”
Christina Rowe, Brand Manager, Wood Care for Akzo Nobel Paints LLC, reported that VOCs are affecting the wood finishes market as well. “The continued reduction of VOC limits, beginning in the West, and slowly cascading eastward, has forced every manufacturer of wood finishes to think differently about how we develop formulas and manage our portfolios,” she said. “AkzoNobel is no different. In 2010 alone, we introduced Flood TWF-SEMI and SWF-SOLID finishes in formulas containing less than 100 g/L of VOCs, as well as Sikkens Cetol WB SRD, the first waterborne product in the Sikkens family of products.”
Sansin Corp.’s zero-VOC waterborne wood stains meet consumers’ performance expectations. The Purity® line of products feature natural oil carried by water in a formulation that offers superior results for wood surfaces. “The products penetrate wood, apply easily, go on evenly, dry quickly and don’t require a conditioner,” said Sjoerd Bos, Vice President of Sansin Corp. “Our products perform as well or better than more toxic formulations, so why wouldn’t consumers make the environmental choice?”
To complement its zero-VOC interior stains, Sansin has developed a new colorant system called Eco-Tone™ that is an alternative to using high VOC dyes to achieve deep, rich tones. Eco-Tone™ instead uses pure pigments, ground so fine they are able to combine with Sansin’s Purity® 0-VOC Base interior line. Once applied to a home interior, they penetrate deeply, pulling the pigmentation down into the wood for color that is so vibrant and crisp with 1/10th the VOC level of dyes.
Managing Paint Waste
While limiting VOCs is one way to show commitment to the environment, another way of doing so is to limit waste. Major suppliers in the paint industry have taken steps to reduce their environmental footprint by switching to paint cans made of 100-percent recycled and recyclable plastic. In addition, paint companies are producing labels and color cards on recycled paper and using soy-based inks for printing.
Additionally, one of the ways to reduce waste is to ensure that any paint purchased is actually used on the wall rather than wasted and possibly going to a landfill. One way that this is being facilitated is by the growing popularity of paint “sampling” programs, which typically feature small jars of paint that can be tried out on the wall before customers commit to a full paint purchase for the entire room.
In addition, the paint industry has been pro-active in the area of post-consumer paint management, working with state governments to develop legislation for safely disposing of leftover paint from consumer and contractor painting projects.
There is already a post-consumer paint management law in place in Oregon, which entails the imposition of a modest paint recovery fee per gallon of paint sold and the establishment of paint collection sites nationwide. California followed Oregon’s lead and passed such a law, which will be implemented in July of next year. Legislation is pending in Vermont and Connecticut, and other states are expected to follow suit in the coming years.