Out of 330 million litres of paint sold in the UK every year, over 50 million are unused. That, by the way, equates to the filling of 20 Olympic sized swimming pools. It’s a lot of paint that isn’t going on a wall anytime soon and a big headache for environmentalists.
I learnt this interesting fact during a visit to ‘The Paint Place‘, a shop in Walthamstow operated by the Forest Recycling Project (FRP) which sells cheap recycled paint to the public. As a service goes it’s an important one, unused paint is expensive to dispose of as it needs to be burnt or placed into landfill. Environmentalists amongst us will realise that neither option particularly benefits mother nature. As Toni Roussi, Marketing Intern at the FRP explains “people believe that after a while paint isn’t usable but it really is and it’s much better than going to landfill”.
So FRP provide a valuable resource, collecting unwanted paint from recycling centres in north east London and remixing it to return to the market via the Paint Place and various community programs. It’s a win win scenario as for locals of Walthamstow it means that redecorating can suddenly become very inexpensive and for the local councils the hassle and expense of landfill is taken away.
Perhaps of most interest though is the ‘Free Paint 4 Hackney‘ scheme which is supported with funding from Comic Relief and The London Community Foundation. It aims to give up to 10,000 litres of free paint to those wishing to brighten up the community, helps to support creative activities that need paint and helps support low income households with home decoration.
Amongst the variety of projects the Paint Place has helped to support is the much loved Walthamstow ‘Mural in the Marsh‘ and the Femme Fierce Leake Street Takeover which aimed to raise money for Breast Cancer Research. Both projects have been well covered by Inspiring City and both featured an array of artistic talent whose intention was to use art in order to raise awareness of issues and beautify a space.
For Toni Roussi, the project is a vital community resource. Showing me round the Paint Place she explains that the shop is just the tip of the iceberg, two further warehouses full of paint exist, one for use by trade in Leytonstone and one for storage in Edmonton. Recycling paint it would seem is big business or at least it would be if the prices weren’t so low, the average tin going for just £1 a litre.
“We really like it when people just pop in” says Toni explaining how the Paint Place has been at the heart of the community for the past 25 years. Given it’s home as a repository for recycled paint Toni also explained “some of the tins look a bit used but the paint is perfectly good and it’s fine to use, people can get some really good deals here.” A lot of the paint they sell and which they give away for free has often languished in sheds, cupboards and cabinets before being handed in to the recycling centre. For this reason some of the tins are less than new but as Toni explains “the paint is remixed in the warehouses so it’s good quality and placing all the paint into new containers sort of defeats the object of recycling”.
Toni has volunteered in a number of places around the World from South America to Bulgaria and always with a view to raising environmental issues but she always wanted to do something in London. “I think a lot of young people like myself choose to do something abroad but I wanted to do something London based because there is so much to do in your own city. A place like London uses so many resources on a daily basis it’s just ridiculous that we don’t try and get involved in conserving those resources.”
Toni Roussi was interviewed at the Paint Place in Walthamstow on Friday 21st March. Forest Recycling Project (FRP) provide free and discounted paint to residents and community groups in North East London. Anyone interested in the Free Paint 4 Hackney scheme should download an application form direct from the FRP website. To see projects where paint from the FRP has been used click here and here.
Free Paint for Hackney
FRP Poster designed and kindly supplied by Boxhead