I recently joined a discussion on Facebook on how acrylic paint should be disposed and whether is it dangerous for the environment (considering micro-plastics).
I wasn’t very happy with only bits and pieces of information on whether the paints contain micro-plastics or not – no one really seemed to know the facts. So I started writing to some manufacturers a couple of days ago: Schmincke, Reeves, Amsterdam Acrylics and Windsor & Newton. Reeves & W&N are the same company, but their answers differ and are both helpful.
Amsterdam haven’t answered, but Schminke replied right away (I’ll roughly translate their answer from German). Windsor & Newton asked me to send a message to their consumer service which I did and they answered. Reeves wrote to me but didn’t really answer my questions, so I asked for more information. They then referred me to their Sustainability Team, whom I wrote to as well, receiving a detailed answer.
I’ll copy all the answers here:
Schmincke’s Answer (translated):
Generally speaking the plastic particles found in oceans don’t have anything in common with the ingredients of acrylic paint.
However, disposing of paint in an environmentally friendly way should always be considered: water which contains paint can be collected in a bucket, the solid particles will settle at the bottom. The water can be flushed down the drain, solids can be put in the general waste. There is something here called Entsorgungsschlüssel (“disposal key”) which is used to categorise waste, she gave me the number 080112 which stands for paint, lacquer and enamel and DOESN’T count as hazardous waste.
If you can read German there are safety data sheets for their products
The answer from Windsor and Newton:
Yes, acrylics are basically a type of plastic. The great majority of our colors are considered AP, or approved product and don’t require any ‘special’ health and safety precautions for disposal. Some may say CL for cautionary labeling. These will have usage instructions on the label. I have not seen any other art industry concerns or warnings about acrylic wash water disposal.
Recommended disposal tips:
- Remove excess paint from the brush with a scrap towel. Allow the towel to dry and then dispose of in the regular trash.
- Allow any excess color that exists in a larger amount (on the palette, etc) to dry and then dispose of as above.
- Have a metal bucket with just a few holes in the bottom. Fill with regular playground sand. Pour the wash water into the sand. The pigments will remain behind in the sand while the water evaporates. Once the sand is completely ‘coated’ take to your local waste center for appropriate processing.
I hope this helps!
And these are the two answers I got from Reeves
Thank you for getting in touch about the environmental impact of Reeves products.
You’ll be pleased to hear that the plastic in our packaging is phthalate and BPA free which means these chemicals, which can have some harmful impacts, are not present. We also ensure the plastic we use is durable, so that we produce high quality products that last and don’t need to be purchased as often.
We are also concerned about the future of our environment and are currently researching the best ways to make our packaging and products more sustainable. Find out more here.
In the meantime, anything that is unrecyclable will have to either go into general waste, depending on your local council or authority’s guidelines. You can also get creative with it and use it to make more art. If you do, let us know how you get on, we’d love to see it! #wearereeves
Please contact the Sustainability Team by filling out the webform here. They will be able to answer your query about paint disposal.
Thank you for caring,
There are no microplastics in acrylic paint when wet, however they can be formed in their lifecycle.
By careful storage and use, the contents of the majority of tubes and tins will have been thoroughly exhausted, leaving a dried residue that is sufficiently chemically inert to be classified as ‘non-hazardous waste’. Empty packaging therefore that contains only dry paint can usually be processed through the usual waste channels.
For remaining paint, tubes and the sludge that collects at the bottom of brush washing jars, we suggest the following procedure be adopted as a good practice:
Find an old large paint pot and affix a sticker saying ‘Contains Artists Paints’. Once full with your paint waste, reapply the lid securely and take it to your local refuse recycling centre the next time you are disposing of household and garden waste etc. Do not put it in the general waste, but look for the area at all municipal recycling centres, dedicated to all types of paints, bitumen and creosotes which are disposed of appropriately. If in doubt, hand the container to a member of staff.
We recommend that you do not wash down the sink.
I really hope I can help some with a couple of ideas on how we can work without much impact on the environment. The answers aren’t entirely coherent, but can serve as inspiration, which I hope I delivered! Thanks for reading, it shows you care.