Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

Closed-loop paint pail recycling

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Closed-loop paint pail recycling
New Zealand-based paint and packaging manufacturers work together to establish a closed-loop recycling system for paint pails
In Use – The first 100% post-consumer paint pail was launched in New Zealand in June 2011.

Recycled content/recyclability

Product Categories
Home Improvement

Relevant Materials
Plastic – rigid

Relevant Packaging Formats

Supply Chain Phase


A New Zealand-based paint manufacturer has worked together with their packaging supplier to establish a closed-loop paint pail recycling system.

The partners reached an initial agreement in 2009 to evaluate the feasibility of recycling paint pails collected through their paint returns programme (which allows consumers to return unused or unwanted paint to selected stores for appropriate disposal). Throughout 2010, used paint pails from the scheme were delivered to a drum reconditioning facility, where a process had been developed for cleaning the used paint pails. The cleaned material was then ground and put back through the packaging manufacturing process, resulting in a pail manufactured from 100% post-consumer material.
The pails were then delivered to the paint manufacturer for various performance trials and tests. The pails manufactured from 100% post-consumer material achieved equivalent performance to those manufactured from virgin materials. The paint manufacturer subsequently successfully filled the pails and distributed them through the supply chain to ratify their performance.
Following the success of these trials, Resene Paints officially launched paint pails utilising 100% post-consumer material during June 2011. The packaging supplier, VIP Packaging, is investing in new plant and equipment to automate the cleaning process and expand their facility so they have capacity to process all of the used paint pails collected through the Resene Paintwise programme. The programme accepts all unwanted paints and paint containers, regardless of whether these are Resene brands or otherwise.
The content in this entry has been obtained from publicly available information sources only (e.g. press releases, website and trade press articles) and is subject to completion of a validation process with the technology supplier.

Potential Benefits

As well as diverting the original containers from landfill and encouraging consumers to recycle more this process reduces the demand for virgin polymer.

Intellectual Property

The paint pail cleaning process was developed by Auckland Drum Sustainability Services. The post-consumer containers are manufactured using standard processes by VIP Packaging in New Zealand.

Consultant View

There are very few examples of genuine closed-loop packaging recycling systems.  The success of this programme demonstrates what can be achieved when supply chain partners work together.
However, in all recycling schemes it is important that the recycling process does not have a greater environmental burden than the alternatives. In this case, it is important to establish that the environmental impacts associated with cleaning and recycling the used containers are not greater than the environmental impacts of producing virgin containers and disposing of these at end-of-life. It is assumed that this is the case, but no life cycle assessment data or similar information has been identified to support this.
Other paint companies and pail manufacturers are also working on initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of paint packaging. Those specifically interested in this area should try searching the REID database using the key words “Paint”, “Home improvement” or “Decorating".

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