People are always chasing white, says Dave Kavanagh. Magnolia comes a close second. He’s the paint manager in the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun, Dublin, and is in his workshop remixing leftover paint so it’s good as new. White is the prize because it’s the easiest colour to put back into production. It can also make the base for other colours. No quirky names are given to these paints (you’ll have to go elsewhere for Mouse’s Bathwater). And each 200-litre batch is unique according to the mix of leftovers that has gone into it.
On the wall behind them in the Paint Reuse workshop is a swatch of fresh colours, painted in the light of the room to assess the batches as they mix and go. It looks like an enjoyable and satisfying job. These are men with a mission. Each batch gets a number so the paint buyer can be sure to get enough for their job. The paint costs €1.50 a litre, which pays for the cost of recycling it. A five-litre tub costs €8.60, less than a 10th of the cost of the fanciest brands. For a little more they will mix a bespoke blend. Signature eco-paint, anyone?
The Paint Reuse Network was launched in the winter of 2021 as the great ocean of pandemic house makeover leftovers washed up. They only recycle water-based paints. Dave and his colleague carry out a “smell test” on each tub. If it smells eggy, it’s gone off. Any black mould is also a no-no. So far they’ve recycled 9.5 tonnes of leftover paint. It is, Dave says, still a drop in the ocean of what is wasted. Up to a third of leftover paint can be recycled.
Oil-based paints are treated as hazardous waste and sent to landfill or incineration, but paint manufacturers are making better water-based paints, says Dave. And the days of oil-based paints are waning. Dave is the king of reuse. He holds up an empty plastic paint pot. How many things it can be made into? Five, he says, before listing the first three: a clock face (the base), a bird house, a plant pot.
And for anyone who has just finished a paint job and has leftovers, the crucial thing is to get your leftover paint to a recycling centre before it spoils. Skip the “seven years in the shed or attic” stage of the life cycle and get it to a paint reuse workshop soon, where it can go on to someone else’s walls or ceilings.
The employment potential of the reuse economy is painted in large letters in this model, where white is the new black. Recycled paint is available in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and hopefully more centres as the network grows.