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The trend towards sustainable paints

Pinturas sostenibles

The new reality of the paints and coatings sector is marked by ecological and sustainable coatings, driven by business strategies and government regulations.

By Acopinturas*

Currently, the concern about climate change, the greater awareness of the negative environmental impact of various products and the urgency of seeking the sustainability of productive activities has led companies to carry out studies to restructure their formulations, processes and production plants, and direct research areas in environmentally friendly product lines. biobased and ecological.

The paints sector is no stranger to this reality, and hence the trend towards ecological and sustainable paints and coatings.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises the following list of sustainability criteria to identify greener paints and coatings [1]:

Reduction or elimination of toxic substances (e.g. ammonia, formaldehyde, odour-masking agents, fungicides) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Recycled content.
Recovered leftover paint (some marketers can remix in almost any color).
Alternative paints (lime, milk protein, clay and earth-based pigments).
Manufacturer or retailer return and recycling options for unused paint.

The above criteria can approach a comprehensive concept of ecological paints, since different aspects of the life cycle of paints are considered and allow the development of products that are friendly to the environment.

In addition to the above, the business sector has advanced in a set of strategies to bring ecological paints to the market and thus reduce the negative impacts on the environment and the health of people, both those who handle products and raw materials in production processes and end customers.

Sustainable strategies

Strategies include formulations without components that affect the environment and health, high performance characteristics, packaging with recycled content or with technologies that reduce the use of materials in packaging and processes within companies that have environmental management systems.

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Regarding the formulation of paints, companies that have aligned themselves with these environmental trends present products with very low VOC content and fast drying, with low or no content of toxic substances and with significant levels of materials from renewable sources.

Specifically, flaxseed, soybean oil, cashew nut shell, pine resin, wood waste, among others, are natural sources for the manufacture of raw materials such as polymeric binders, solvents and pigments used in the paint industry [2].

Another feature that plays an important role is performance. A paint with high performance, durable and high quality standards can significantly reduce its maintenance. Therefore, it will imply that a smaller amount of paint is used over the years, which generates a decrease in the use of resources; that is, a reduction in the carbon footprint in the environment.

In the same way, producers and importers of paints and coatings must be aware of the environmental impact of paint waste and the packaging that contains them, which are additional criteria to consider.

In this sense, strategies are being implemented to recover those excess paint, in addition to generating a culture in the end users about the good conservation of the paintings in order to avoid their waste. In countries such as the United States and Chile there are companies that recover surplus paints to use them in conjunction with virgin raw materials and produce recycled paints.

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In this same line, reverse logistics strategies for containers and packaging stand out, in which the recovery and return to the process is managed, or the invention of new types of containers with less material or with designs that facilitate their recyclability.

Environmental management systems
An additional criterion that is important to highlight are the Environmental Management Systems implemented in companies or in some of their internal processes. These voluntary systems seek to improve the environmental performance of organizations through mechanisms for controlling variables that affect the environment within the scope of the organizational structure, including responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources [3].

In Colombia, companies can be certified in the NTC-ISO 14001 of 2015 – Environmental Management Systems. Requirements with guidance for use.

On the other hand, an international strategy that has been implemented for several years is that of eco-labeling or environmental labels, which present truthful information about the environmental characteristics of a product and, consequently, allows consumers a better knowledge of the attributes of the products.

The standardization of this type of labels also seeks to avoid false environmental statements, commonly called Green-washing. To standardize communication, ISO issued a series of standards on environmental labels and declarations: ISO 14020 —General principles—; ISO 14021 —Self-reported environmental claims—; ISO 14024 —Environmental labelling type I. Principles and procedures—; and ISO 14025 —Environmental labelling type III. Guidelines and procedures—1.

For the paints sector, labels such as the "EU Ecolabel Do It Yourself" can be found, which guarantees that products such as paints, varnishes and related products contain reduced amounts of hazardous substances and VOCs, and that, in addition, they have high levels of performance for indoor and/or outdoor use [4].

There is also the US Green Seal certification, which meets criteria for strict VOC limits, safer chemicals, environmental packaging and uncompromising performance [5].

The certifications presented above are voluntary. However, in several countries policies have been established to prohibit or limit the use of different materials that are usually or used to be used in paints and coatings and that can generate negative impacts on the

1 In Colombia these ISO standards have been adapted identically in the Colombian Technical Standards: NTC-ISO 14020, NTC-ISO 14021, NTC-ISO 14024 and NTC-ISO 14025

environment or health. This is the case of Germany, the United States or Japan, where they have limited the use of VOCs, heavy metals or ozone-depleting substances.

Particularly in Colombia, mandatory criteria are being established with regard to the use of substances that may affect health and the environment. Law 2041 of 2020 limits the lead (Pb) content in architectural paints, also called decorative or home and work use, to a concentration of 90 ppm (particles per million).

With respect to packaging regulations, Resolution 1407 of 2018 regulates the environmental management of packaging waste in the industry, which promotes a decrease in environmental pollution and encourages reverse logistics.

Additionally, the country has the Colombian Environmental Seal for paints, which aims to "promote the supply and demand of products and services that cause less impact on the environment, through the communication of verifiable, accurate and non-misleading information on environmental aspects of said products and services, to stimulate continuous environmental improvement driven by the market" [6].

This seal, presented in NTC 6018 of 2013, establishes legal requirements, general requirements, requirements for raw materials, components and inputs, requirements for manufacturing, environmental requirements of the product (VOC content, heavy metals), packaging and packaging characteristics, as well as all the information that producers or importers must present for the handling of paints at the end of their useful life.

Therefore, environmental commitment must be a pillar of industries. There are more and more developments of raw materials that do not generate toxicity or effects on health and the environment. Also, new sources of raw materials and new strategies to incorporate circular economy concepts into the processes and products of the paint sector.

It is important not only to comply with the legal obligations that the Government has been implementing, but also to continue with the incorporation of voluntary strategies and, of course, to strengthen the lines of research in sustainability to continue betting on environmentally friendly products. The market and the planet demand them with increasing urgency.


EPA, "Identifying Greener Paints and Coatings," [Online]. Available:
paints-and-coatings. [Accessed 15 12 2022].
W. Kesler, «Special Chem,» 14 12 2022. [Online]. Available: industrial-coatings. [Accessed 15 12 2022].
ASEFAPI, 02 2010. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 15 12 2022].
European Commission, 2022. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 15 12 2022].
Green Seal, 2022. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 15 12 2022].
ICONTEC, NTC 6018 - Environmental labels type I. Colombian Environmental Seal. Environmental criteria for paints and materials
coating., Bogotá, 2013.

*Acopinturas is a sectoral chapter of the Colombian Association of Plastic Industries (Acoplásticos) that represents the paint, coating and ink industries, and develops initiatives that respond to the needs of the sector.

Federico Duarte
Author: Federico Duarte
Editor en Latin Press, Inc.
Comunicador social y periodista con experiencia de más de 15 años en medios de comunicación. Apasionado por hacer de la vida una historia para contar. [email protected]

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