Addressing Environmental Issues Proactively

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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 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.

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:

  • More than 90% of architectural coatings sales in the United States are now for environmentally preferable water-based paint.
  • Volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from architectural coatings have drastically decreased over the last few decades, even while the use of architectural coatings has increased over the same time period nationwide. California’s 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 — decreased by over 50% between 2008 and 2014.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) indicates releases by the paint and coatings sector decreased by 81% between 1990 and 2014. Toxicity-weighted results for air releases present an even more significant decline, decreasing 94% from 1990. Air toxics — also known as HAPs — decreased by 82% between 1990 and 2014, and toxicity-weighted air toxics releases declined by 94%.
  • The paint and coatings industry reduced its total production waste by 48%, from 1995 to 2013, while increasing the percentage of the total waste it recycles by over 81% during that period.
  • The paint, coatings, and adhesives manufacturing industry reduced its generation of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste in the United States by over one-third (34.8%) since 2001.
  • 97% of all waste solvents from paint and coatings manufacturing facilities are reclaimed for future use.
  • The total quantity of electricity purchased and used for heat and power — and as a result, greenhouse gas emissions — from the paint and coatings sector decreased by 17.8 % between 2007 and 2012.
  • U.S. EPA 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.


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 nine jurisdictions since 2009, where programs are being implemented: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Minnesota, Maine, Colorado, and the District of Columbia.

PaintCare®’s success is astounding:

  • the program’s  more than 1,800 paint drop-off sites — the large majority of which are paint retailers — provide access to a site within 15 miles for most residents in each PaintCare® state — that’s some 61 million U.S. residents;
  • the program has collected and recycled — or responsibly managed — more than 12 million gallons of post-consumer paint (through December 2015), of which approximately 70% is latex paint and 30% is oil-based paint; and
  • the program has also recycled more than 5,400 tons of metal and plastic paint cans.

Overall, paint recycling is now more convenient throughout the states in which PaintCare® operates, particularly in areas where local governments do not offer paint recycling opportunities; governments that previously collected leftover paint are realizing direct financial savings; and communities that were underserved have new services.

Those are just a few highlights of the PaintCare® program. For more information about PaintCare®, please visit the program’s website at www.paintcare.org.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National RCRA Hazardous Waste Report, 2001 & 2013
U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 & 2012 Economic Census
South Coast Air Quality Management District’s 2012 Air Quality Management Plan
South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 314 – Fees for Architectural Coatings: Preliminary 2014 Data
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Paint and Allied Products Area Source Rule
ACA Industry Market Analysis, 9th Edition (2014-2019)