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Addressing Environmental Issues Proactively

Facts about the Paint & Coatings Industry

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For years, the paint and coatings industry has aggressively looked for strategies to manufacture products in an environmentally conscious way, without compromising product performance.

Industry R&D, market-demand, recent regulatory developments, and the continuing market trends toward water-based coatings, powder coatings, ultraviolet cure coatings, and other processes, as well as lower-emitting coating products, have contributed to reductions in both hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from production in recent years.

In addition to making great strides in process-side emission and waste reductions, the paint and coatings industry has reduced or eliminated a number of harmful constituents from its products, such as lead and mercury.

The paint and coatings industry has taken steps for maximum environmental improvements by managing and minimizing toxins and wastes, reducing air emissions, and promoting product and environmental stewardship. Here is a short list of environmental successes:

  • Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) releases by the paint and coatings sector decreased by 80% between 1995 and 2011.
  • The paint, coatings, and adhesives manufacturing industry reduced its generation of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste in the United States by 30% over the past decade. This industry sector accounts for less than 1% — specifically, 0.34% — of the hazardous waste generated nationally.
  • The paint and coatings industry reduced its total production waste by 56%, from 1995 to 2011, while increasing the percentage of waste it recycles by over 70% during that period.
  • The energy usage — and as a result, greenhouse gas emissions — from the paint and coatings sector is very small as compared to other U.S. manufacturing sectors. In 2007, the paint and coatings sector purchased about 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity for heat and power, which represented well under 1% — less than 0.2% — of the total quantity of electricity purchased for heat and power by U.S. manufacturers.
  • 97% of all waste solvents from paint and coatings manufacturing facilities are reclaimed for future use.
  • Total air releases from the paint and coatings industry decreased by 79% between 1995 and 2011.
  • Volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from architectural coatings have decreased over the last few decades, even while the use of architectural coatings has increased over the same time period nationwide. The South Coast Air Quality Management District estimates that VOCs from architectural coatings in the Los Angeles area — the air basin with the most severe air quality issues in the country — will decrease by over 66% in a span of 12 years from 2002 to 2014.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noted, in its recent Paint and Allied Products Rule, that the paint manufacturing industry has drastically reduced hazardous air pollutant emissions in the last two decades.
  • Emissions from hazardous air pollutants were reduced by 67% between 1993 and 2005.
  • 83% of architectural coatings sales are for environmentally preferable water-based paint.



The American Coatings Association (ACA) created PaintCare®, a not-for-profit (501(c)(3) organization whose sole purpose is to ensure effective operation and efficient administration of paint product stewardship programs on behalf of all architectural paint manufacturers in the United States. Unused or leftover paint is a major focus of product stewardship efforts because of its high volume in the household hazardous waste stream, its high cost to manage, and the potential for increased reduction, recovery, reuse, and recycling. PaintCare® undertakes the responsibility for ensuring an environmentally sound and cost-effective program by developing and implementing strategies to reduce the generation of post-consumer architectural paint; promoting the reuse of post-consumer architectural paint; and providing for the collection, transport, and processing of post-consumer architectural paint using the hierarchy of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and proper disposal. PaintCare® participation is not limited to ACA members, but open to all architectural paint manufacturers.

Legislation mandating the creation of the PaintCare® program has been enacted in seven states since 2009: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Minnesota, and Maine. The program is being implemented with great success in Oregon (since July 2010), California (since July 2012), and Connecticut (since July 2013), and program operations will commence in Rhode Island, Vermont, and Minnesota by July 2014, and in Maine by July 2015.

Notably, in the first three years of program operations in Oregon, PaintCare® established over 100 collection sites for paint. Now, over 95% of Oregon residents have access to a permanent site within 15 miles of their homes. PaintCare® collected over 1.5 million gallons of paint, of which 100% was recycled or beneficially reused. PaintCare® also recycled over 100 tons of plastic paint containers, and nearly 175 tons of metal paint containers. Portland Metro estimates that it saves about $1 million per year with PaintCare®.

For more information about PaintCare®, please visit the program website at



U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National RCRA Hazardous Waste Report, 2001 & 2011
U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Economic Census
South Coast Air Quality Management District’s 2012 Air Quality Management Plan
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Paint and Allied Products Area Source Rule

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ACA offers valued benefits to technical professionals, educators, sales and marketing professionals, and consultants working in the paint and coatings industry. We also offer memberships for students who may be interested in learning more about the industry and retired professionals who have served the industry during their careers.

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Did You Know?

The United States exported $1.8 billion in paint and coatings products in 2010, up by 24 percent, or $343 million, from 2009.

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