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In the Loop: Q&A with Paint-Recycling Guru

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

By Jill M. Speegle


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When an Ontario-based hazardous waste company hauled its first paint can in 1997, little did it know that some 15 years later it would be operating a successful recycled paint business.

In only six months, Photech Environmental Solutions’ Loop brand recycled paint has worked its way onto Walmart shelves, ramped up processing and created 60 new jobs in St. Catharines, Ontario.

 Loop Recycled Products

 Images: Loop Recycled Products

Loop is recycled latex paint formulated by using left-over and unwanted paint from garages and basements across Canada, the company says. The company sorts the unwanted paint by quality and color, tests it to ensure it is “mid-grade” paint and then sells it through Ontario retailers.

For every gallon of Loop Paint sold, the company pledges that a tree will be planted in the Gonaives area of Haiti.

Photech director and shareholder Josh Wiwcharyk gave D+D the following exclusive look into the business operations and details.

D+D: Tell us about your company.

Wiwcharyk: We have been Stewardship Ontario processor and transporter since the beginning—we hauled our first paint can in 1997, but we had a much smaller piece of the market. The biggest change was a ramp up of processing and a customer facing product (Loop). 

The core business of Photech is not hauling, it’s high compliance hazardous waste services, and our customers (like Toyota, Department of Defense, and hospitals) have sophisticated problems.

D+D: Has your company hired new employees due to the Loop product?

Wiwcharyk: Yes, we have hired 60 new people for various positions in our new sorting and canning facility. St. Catharines has some of the highest unemployment in the country and we are very proud of the fact we can provide good jobs. 

When we looked at the expansion we decided we did not want to enter this business if we had to pay minimum wage so we don’t, and all of our employees have the same benefit package as the president.

St. Catharines has a long history of making “good stuff” and being innovative. We were lucky enough to tap into this local talent.

 Wiwcharyk says recycling is in his blood.
Wiwcharyk says recycling is in his blood.

D+D: What do you credit to the company’s success?

Wiwcharyk: The short and easy answer is a good product.  It may look like a stretch for a hazardous waste company to make a good paint, but in fact we already had all the competencies. 

We had the skills in chemistry and quality control and access to great feedstock. We love technology and are not afraid to do things from first principals. Many times we heard, “you can’t do it” but we had to learn some of it for ourselves; we won some and lost some... 

We even created a “believer” in a major player in the color analysis industry because we kept saying “why not.” 

Our President and CEO Shawn Barlow is the key to this culture of curiosity.  Let’s just say you have to know your stuff at Loop / Photech.

D+D: Was the paint recycling business always an interest?

Wiwcharyk: If you mean the business case, that is still to be determined as we are still very young; the capital investment is massive and we are still making efficiency improvements. 

From a personal point of view I started in recycled textiles in the 90’s—the overlap in skills is nearly identical and recycling is in my blood. I got hooked on the paint side because I saw it as a way to make a huge impact on the environment. Why incinerate or landfill perfectly good paint?  I love this is a job, and I am proud to tell my 5 year-old about it.

D+D: Has it been what you expected?

Wiwcharyk: I wish I could say it was all easy, but I don’t think that’s what anyone really wants anyway. We want to be handed big challenges as they result in big satisfactions. While all things have not gone to plan it’s been a fantastic ride so far and we have a long way to go yet.

 The company’s website features an interactive color tool to assist users in selecting a recycled paint color.
The company’s website features an interactive color tool to assist users in selecting a recycled paint color.

D+D: What would you like to highlight in terms of the process or product?

Wiwcharyk: Quality. The genesis of the branding was that we have all been burned by eco products that don’t work.  We made a product and said, “You can buy a product that works well, help the planet and save money.” I bet that’s a proposition a lot of products wished they had.

D+D: What differentiates your company from others in the paint-recycling industry?

Wiwcharyk: We are very fortunate to have had other companies trail blaze a path from recycled paint to customers; companies like Boomerang have set the standard. By the way, we don’t perceive companies like Boomerang or EcoCoat to be competitors we are all such small players we need to work together to advance this industry.

D+D:  What are your next steps? Plans for future?

Wiwcharyk: More, more more.  We changed the recycled paint industry in Ontario more in the last 6 months than the past 16 years.  We want to keep pushing.  Loop will be bigger than latex paint, and I hope it will be bigger than coatings.  We have some very interesting irons in the fire - the ones I can tell you about are Alkyd’s and Stains to be on the market by Q1 2013.

Wiwcharyk also offered this comment regarding the need for a recycled paint system in Canada.

“Recycled paint can’t exist without incentives at least for the time being (we know this because there are only a couple companies recycling paint). Governments need to find a way to make a system that works so that this potentially harmful (and potentially high value) waste can be properly dealt with.”

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Jill M. Speegle

Jill Speegle is the Editor of Durability + Design News. She earned her B.A. in journalism and English as well as her J.D. from the University of Arkansas. In Sketches, Jill shares her thoughts on a number of topics that may be of interest to the D+D community, including architecture, interior design, green building, historic restoration, and whatever else catches her radar.

SEE ALL CONTENT FROM THIS CONTRIUBTOR

   

Comment from William Richards, (9/17/2012, 8:48 PM)

Great Idea, Good looking label.


Comment from Jim Cosby, (9/19/2012, 7:08 AM)

Love it man! Keep up the great work. I know your sense of satisfaction and pride of creating jobs from junk. Congrats.


Comment from Rodney Conduff, (9/26/2012, 8:28 AM)

On a little more local level, our company, a paint contractor decided to do a little warehouse cleaning and started druming up surplus paint and putting in back in 5 gal buckets and ran ads in local papers to donate paint to charities, churches, and schools. The response has been great donating over 500 gals to great causes. Maybe others can do the same.


Comment from john lienert, (5/1/2013, 9:39 AM)

it's working in portland. oregon now w/ Metro Paint....a city owned facility that turns out thousands up re-cycled gallons/month............i've used their paint on several jobs....not too many colors yet...but the price is 75% less than the big players


Comment from Veronica Alexander, (2/15/2016, 12:05 AM)

i hope we can do this in our country. =)


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