‘Suction technology’ to harvest paint for a circular economy

The video below shows the process that Seymourpowell went through to develop a decanting technology.
A partnership has developed new technology based on ‘suction technology’ for extracting unused paint to be recycled into new products, with the aims of saving resources, cutting costs, and reducing landfill waste.

Design company Seymourpowell teamed up with Dulux owner AkzoNobel and Newlife Paints with the intent of developing a large-scale and cost-effective paint recycling technology and bringing recycled paint products to mainstream markets.

According to the company, 55 million litres, or 13 per cent of the 400 million litres of paint sold every year in the UK, currently goes unused. The majority of this waste paint enters the domestic waste stream before being sent to landfill or disposed of as hazardous waste, at great cost to local authorities.

Paint chemist Keith Harrison has developed a technique for re-engineering unused paint into good-quality recycled paint, and after working with him and AkzoNobel, Seymourpowell says it has designed machinery that enables the technique to be scaled up to a larger scale.

Decanting the paint

The video below shows the process that Seymourpowell went through to develop a decanting technology.

Chris Sherwin, Sustainability Consultant at Seymourpowell, said: “One of the major technical problems with recycling paint is that it’s very difficult to decant from tins. The process is labour-intensive and expensive because it all has to be done by hand. Our first challenge was to discover the very best way of harvesting all of the unused paint in the most cost-effective way.”

Seymourpowell says that a variety of extraction techniques to remove the paint from tines were tested, including using high-pressure air jets, vibrations, and crushing and squeezing the tins. However, the most efficient method proved to be using a suction technology in the form of a powerful industrial vacuum cleaner that had been adapted for use with paint.

A prototype was built and the concept was trialled with waste management company Veolia, which has recently opened a paint remanufacturing facility at its Stewartby site in Bedfordshire and plans to commercially recycle paint in the future. Results reported from the trial suggest that the technology was able to recycle paint four times faster and at one-seventh of the cost of extracting paint manually. Furthermore, Seymourpowell says the technology leaves the paint tins clean enough that they can be recycled without having to be washed out.

Sherwin continued: “We’re also planning to develop a smaller paint suction prototype for smaller paint recycling operations too. This project has been really rewarding to work on because we’re creating a real, live example of a circular economy and because this is such a fledgling process.”

Once the technology had been developed, the next task for Seymourpowell was to test recycled paint propositions in the market. Sherwin said: “We discovered significant interest from customers and this is being taken forward by AkzoNobel."


AkzoNobel is one of the signatories of the PaintCare commitment, a programme run by the British Coatings Foundation (BCF) to raise public awareness of paint recycling and increase the amount of leftover decorative paint being redistributed for use or remanufactured.

As part of the initiative, the BCF published a report last year at the House of Commons making 18 recommendations to the paint industry, central government and local authorities to remove barriers to the recycling and remanufacturing of paint.

Among these were measures to reduce tax on paint being reused by charities or community groups, ensuring regulations on transporting of leftover paint (which is often classified as hazardous waste) do not create a burden for remanufacturing operations and promoting consistent guidelines for the disposal of leftover paint.

More information about the PaintCare programme can be found on its website.