Scientists blend paint into plastic
Engineers at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, have developed a process to recycle waste latex paint – the largest component of household hazardous waste – by blending it with common plastics. In laboratory samples, these paint-blended plastics were as good as, and in some cases, superior to the same plastics made without paint.
To advance this promising technology toward commercialization, Rutgers signed a special licensing agreement with Re-Manufacturing Technologies, Inc., a new spinoff of the National Council on Paint Disposition, Inc. That group was formed by a long-time paint dealer and businessman in 2002 to develop a viable approach for reducing the disposal costs and environmental impact of waste paint products.
As part of the Rutgers center’s ongoing work in plastic recycling, Tom Nosker, professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers and postdoctoral research fellow Jennifer Lynch tested the feasibility of blending latex paint solids with two inexpensive and widely available plastics. One is high-density polyethylene (HDPE), commonly used to make milk and laundry detergent bottles; the other is polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), used in Plexiglas and similar acrylics to make plastic windows and lenses. The paint solids, which remain after the paint’s water-based solvent evaporates, are essentially acrylic polymers and colorants.