Green Transitions Within the South African Paint Industry

The future of green paint

While many factors push innovation in industries, one that is gaining more dominance is sustainability-focused innovation. The paint industry is no exception to this innovation, but what would sustainable innovation look like in the South African paint industry?

South Africa’s paint industry

For the purposes of the Durban Chemical Cluster’s research, four HS Codes were looked at to analyse the South Africa’s trade value in paint.

BMA | Capture 1

Between (and including) 2015 and 2020 South Africa exported $597 578 361 worth of these paint products with around 71% of the products having been exported into SADC countries. In that same period, South Africa imported $663 373 343 worth of the same four product types – 75% of this value was imported from Europe with 15% having been imported from Asia.

BMA | graph 1

While exports into Europe only contribute 3% of all South African exports in this category, when looked at in isolation, there appears to be a possible opportunity for paint firms.

BMA | graph 2

In 2019, the trade value of exports into Europe saw a growth of 29% from the previous year, resulting in a 2019 value of $3 873 393. The following year 2020 saw an additional 21% growth from 2019 (resulting in a 2020 value of $4 879 016) which is particularly interesting when most industries saw a substantial decrease in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the rise of green and sustainability-based regulations in Europe, South Africa’s paint industry could further the rising EU exports by introducing products that meet these green regulations.

Innovation best practices

As established in the first article of this series (South Africa is at a green crossroads) there is a need to understand the various value chains and the sustainability practices within. One way of determining this is through looking at international best practice.

Sustainability-focused innovation can take place within the product being manufactured and within the manufacturing process of the product.

In terms of product innovation, Arkema’s Synaqua range introduced resins which are made from bio-based materials (42% to 74% of total carbon). One particular product within the range, Synaqua 4856, consists of 96% of bio-based materials. These materials are derived from co-products found in the paper industry – a source that is both bio-based and renewable.

Sherwin-Williams produces a powder coating called Powdura Eco that consists of 25% pre-consumer recycled plastic (rPET). Pre-consumer recycled plastic is plastic that never reached an end-user but is, instead, derived from manufacturing waste.

Recycled paint can also be used commercially such as Dulux’s Trade Evolve Matt which consists of 35% recycled paint. The recycled paint is reclaimed paint which would have ordinarily gone to a landfill, thus creating a more circular value chain for this product.

These three examples highlight three different approaches to changing existing products into a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly versions. But, more importantly, they are three examples that have the potential to inspire the South African paint industry’s green transition