Architects memo no. 66: May 2001
keen to stay green

Imagine if you will (or can!) using a vermilion paint coloured by pigments made from a mercury compound to paint your bathroom, or perhaps choosing a green paint containing arsenic to finish the fence painting. Both scenarios are ridiculous to contemplate today, yet were commonplace less than a century ago.

Paint manufacturing has certainly come a long way since then (thank goodness!), with toxic substances such as mercury, arsenic and more recently, lead, no longer acceptable ingredients in the paint chemist's repertoire. These restrictions are just the tip of the iceberg. Recent attention has focused on the effect of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions on our environment. It is estimated that 4% of the ozone depleting substances in the urban United States are a direct result of VOC emissions from surface coatings, including mainly standard household paints.

Paints are manufactured using a wide range of organic and inorganic materials. They can contain components that can impact adversely on the environment at different stages of the product's life cycle releasing solvents and toxic substances during production, application, the service life of the coating and disposal.

In response to growing concerns over VOC emissions, the Environmental Choice programme focuses on the need to reduce these emissions. Solventborne paints release significantly more VOCs per litre than waterborne paints, spurring Resene chemists to develop waterborne replacements for solventborne products. Trim, joinery and wet areas have traditionally been no-go areas for waterborne paints due to a tendency to soften under prolonged exposure to moisture and poor block resistance (the ability of a paint to not stick to itself when two painted surfaces come into contact). Resene's introduction of the first waterborne enamels in 1996 - Resene Enamacryl and Resene Lustacryl - was a breakthrough offering a viable alternative to solventborne products. And customers clearly agree - just five years on, Resene Enamacryl and Resene Lustacryl outsell their solventborne equivalents.

Resene is well-known for its role in introducing waterborne paint to the New Zealand market in the 1950s - and for its groundbreaking move to remove lead from its decorative paint products in the 1970s. Joining the Environmental Choice Programme in 1996 was another logical step, reaffirming our commitment to the environment.

Environmental Choice New Zealand is a programme endorsed by the Minister for the Environment. It is aimed at improving the quality of the environment by minimising the adverse environmental impacts generated by the production, distribution, use and disposal of products.

Joining the Environmental Choice programme also gave Resene the impetus to solve a common headache for customers caused by strong smelling paint. The solution came in two parts: Resene chemists removed virtually all odorous material from Resene Zylone Sheen, Resene Zylone 20 and Resene Ceiling Paint, giving users high quality products without strong smelling solvent odours. The end result? Users could paint interior areas and put the area back into service the following day, rather than waiting for days for the strong smelling odours to disappear. The incidence of headaches, asthma, nausea, respiratory complaints, allergic reactions can also be easily reduced by simply choosing to use a low odour paint. The second part of the solution was to introduce waterborne products that could be used in place of solventborne products, such as Resene Enamacryl and Resene Lustacryl.

Improved working environments lead to improved concentration levels and a greater feeling of well-being for users, as well as placing less stress on the body's natural defences. Compliance to the heavy metal requirements of the Environmental Choice Programme, as practised by Resene for over 25 years, also avoids possible poisoning of people, animals, food chains and environment.

The Environmental Choice Programme requires proof of the product in use in real situations prior to certification being awarded, which means that all new products will be available for sale before Environmental Choice approval is processed to cover the in-use requirements. Two examples of products currently undergoing this process are Resene SpaceCote and Resene AquaShield. Both meet the requirements for the Environmental Choice Programme but must prove themselves in use before the certification will be awarded. This in-use requirement is the reason new products released without certification can become Environmental Choice approved after 12-18 months.

Just as our customers call New Zealand home, so do we. Therefore it is central to our way of operating that we continuously strive to reduce the adverse effects of paint on the environment. Choose to specify and use Environmental Choice products wherever you can and help Resene keep New Zealand green. Look for the EC logo on our product data sheets and paint containers - it is confirmation that the product meets the requirements of the Environmental Choice Programme.

For further information on the Environmental Choice Programme, check out the Resene Environmental Choice brochure online (you will need Acrobat Reader), or order a copy of the Resene Environmental Choice brochure online, or call 0800 RESENE and order a copy of the Resene Environmental Choice brochure or visit the Environmental Choice website

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