I promised you more detail on the Little Greene Re:mix collection and so here, hot off the press as it launched yesterday, we are. For those of you who wanted to see other eco paints in last week’s post please do add them to the comments – as I said we couldn’t cover everything but by adding them yourselves they become part of the post and the ongoing conversation.
Now, as I said, waste paint is a huge issue for all paint companies. It’s hard to get rid of, it goes off and there are currently 50m tins stockpiled in sheds and cellars in the UK while a further 55m litres goes to landfill every year. You can read more about that here.
Re-mix is Little Greene’s first attempt to try and solve the problem. They want other brands to follow, to copy, to come up with their own ideas.
As a small family-run company, based in Manchester, Little Greene have always tried to prevent waste by making to order. However, some 60,000 litres of paint tins are returned to them un-opened every year. This is due to customers changing their mind and refusing delivery on the doorstep, it is due, unbelievably, to dented tins being returned with the (false) belief that if the tin is dented the contents will be damaged and it is due, much less often, to the wrong order being dispatched.
Once refused the paint has to be returned to the warehouse and, because the business is small, it’s not possible to store the tins waiting for someone to order the same colour in the same finish in the same size tin and to send it back out again. So until now it has been destroyed. And if Little Greene have to do this, imagine what happens on a larger scale.
David Mottershead, founder of the company, is a trained chemist. He knows, as we all do, that if you mix paints together for the most part you get a sort of sludgy brown. So, he and his team have been working for two years to find a way of creating the original Little Greene colours from these waste tins. First they sort them into returns by general colour. Then they have created an algorithm that enables them to match the original colours but with slightly more sheen (5 per cent as opposed to 2 per cent) due to the remixing process although they still have a matt finish.
“We have been having this conversation about waste for years but you can’t just get rid of 60L of paint by giving it to the Church and so it gets incinerated. We have done small things like recyclable tins and making sure the coverage is good so you use less but it’s not enough” he told me at the launch:
“Re:mix is the start of the conversation. The next step is working out what to do with the opened tins and the leftovers. How do we get them back to our warehouse? What if they aren’t sealed properly? What if the paint is old and has gone off? It’s a big issue.”
But back to Re;mix; the best bit is that it is priced to sell. Because this is about solving a problem. And so a 2.5L tin costs £28 as opposed to £52. So not only does it solve a waste issue but it also allows you to buy designer paint half price.
The first collection has 20 colours including Slaked Lime – Mid, French Grey, Bone China Blue, Juniper Ash, Portland Stone, Rolling Fog, Castell Pink, Nether Red, Tracery II, Sage Green, Livid, Silent White – Mid and Deep and Yellow-Pink.
The numbers are, by their very nature, limited. So there are 100L of the yellows, 250L of the Livid and pinks and 500L of the neutrals. And, as the saying goes, when they are gone, they are gone. Future colours will depend on what comes back to the warehouse and the details of what’s available will be on social media as that’s the fastest, most efficient way to communicate when numbers are limited.
And Little Greene don’t intend to stop there – their next project is those leftover tins in your shed. I’ll keep you posted.
This actually seems like a great initiative. Wonder if there’s something similar for us in Australia? Waste paint is a huge issue and it’s great to see ideas like this.
I love this idea! Thanks for spotlighting, Kate. From a historical perspective, it has precedent. It’s exactly the thought process behind my colour, Chateau Grey. French house painters would mix all the leftovers light colours they used inside a chateau, and more often than not would end up with a gentle, sage green. They’d use this mix as exterior paint on shutters, drainpipes, front doors, etc etc. Once you start to look out for it you’ll notice it everywhere in traditional French homes. All the best ideas are the old ones!
If anyone reading this has any old or unopened tins of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint at home: please, please remember that leftovers can usually be brought back to life with some vigorous stirring and additions of small amounts of water. This isn’t something we advertise on packaging etc as we would have to add a lot of preservatives to ensure the claim was *guaranteed*, but from personal experience, I’ve used cans years and years after opening them and they still do the job wonderfully!
At the moment we’re able to process all our unused paint by selling at cost to staff at Annie Sloan HQ or by donating tins to local charities and the NHS John Radcliffe Hospital nearby, but as Wall Paint by Annie Sloan sales continue to grow this is something we are looking into. Thanks to Amanda for mentioning Seagull in Leeds – we will investigate further!
Thank you so much for your informed comment Annie. That’s so interesting to know – I will look at those old houses with fresh eyes. And thank you also for the paint tips.
Brilliant article, thanks Kate. Just placed my order for Castell Pink – exactly the colour I wanted for my bathroom re-furb at half the price I was going to have to pay. Very easy ordering process and what a fantastic idea.
Ooh, brilliant! I have some of their unopened paint, not so old, in my shed that they can have back. Love the quality of their paint!
Interesting article. There is a brilliant social initiative in Leeds called Seagulls which takes waste paint (all brands) and remixes it. If you investigate this issue further it would most definitely be worth looking at their ethos and business model
What a great idea! I will most definitely take a look as we tackle some painting this year. Wasted paint is such a problem and I’m so pleased to hear some solutions are being worked on.
I live close to the Mylands factory in South London. I love going to the factory itself as they also have paints at 50% off. These are tons that have either been returned from an order or actually made and the colour slightly off and not past their quality checks. I have bought many a paint from them in this way over the years. I remember saying to Nigel that there should be some stock record of these… this went onto a sheet but if went online I think they would see the orders come through. I think I’ll send a comment through to them as it’s such a great way to deal with the waste.