A Conversation With ...Graeme Squire

General Manager, Orica Powder & Industrial Coatings, New Zealand

Graeme Squire’s company, Orica Powder and Industrial Coatings, is on the forefront of green technology. The Auckland, New Zealand-based company has developed a process that transforms waste paint and powder coatings into high-performance particle board—potentially allowing a small manufacturing plant to recycle as much as 17,000 tons of waste paint, powder coatings and wood fiber each year. Recycling at that level would account for all the waste paint produced in New Zealand, much of what is produced in Australia, and all the waste powder produced in both countries. And as for when it could come to the U.S. market? We’ll let Squire fill you in on the details himself.

Tell us about Orica's recycling technology.

G.S: Although the concept of making a board out of recycled powder coating and paint plus waste wood fibers from construction and demolition seems like a simple idea, as with many simple ideas, getting it so the end product is commercially acceptable was not quite so easy. Over a five-year period, we applied ourselves to the problem and came up with the right combination of raw materials which, when used with the right equipment, in the right way, result in an acceptable commercial end product.

What are some of the product's potential applications?

G.S: Potentially the board can be used whereever existing particle board is currently used, although the RPP (recycled paint and powder) board's superior water-resistant properties may lend it to be used as a substrate in areas such as laminated flooring. Other areas of use could be for window surrounds, partitioning, cabintery, etc.

What stage of development are you in currently?

G.S: We have all the necessary technology in place plus an agreement with the equipment supplier. What we need now is for an interested party to decide they would like to build a plant. Orica is both a paint and a powder producer. Because it's not our core business, it's not our plan to own the plants but to license the technology to others. Our concept is ultimately for "boutique" manufacturing plants to be set up using waste resources of that region. Unlike a "traditional" particle board plant, which costs several hundred million dollars to establish and consumes vast quantities of wood fibers, an RPP plant can be established for around $10 million and will manufacture about 15,000 m2 of board a year. At this level, the plant is small enough to be "local," yet profitable. When dealing with waste products, you don't want to be transporting them over long distances because this just adds cost.

What are some of the potential benefits of this technology for painters and powder coaters?

G.S: Paint and powder manufacturers could set up waste collection programs for their customers as part of of their environmental responsibility-"cradle to grave product stewdardship." The reason they don't do this now is largely because they don't know what to do with the waste if they collect it! Once they (or a contractor) have the waste, they could then send it to the RPP plant for use in board manufacturing. The powder and paint suppliers thus fulfill product stewardship responsibilities, and powder and paint users avoid sending their waste to landfills, reducing their environmental impact while saving money by not paying disposal fees.

Any idea when this technology might be available in the states?

G.S: As soon as someone would like to do something. We want to attract the attention of the paint, powder and recycling industries, and also perhaps local and state governements, to let them know that this is a good environmental idea that works and perhaps they should investigate further.