Sustainable Painting Practices

Key industry groups have been working together in an effort to improve the environmental credentials of the painting business. It is estimated that more than 60,000 tonnes of VOCs are released into the atmosphere each year in Australia, with the paint industry contributing significantly to this amount. For that reason, key industry groups have been working together in an effort to improve the environmental credentials of the painting business. Victoria was the first state to introduce member training on the subject after the Master Painters Association of Victoria joined forces with Sustainability Victoria to implement a sustainability painting practices accredited training program in June 2010. The Victorian training program, known as the 22002VIC Course in Sustainable Painting Practices, was developed by Holmesglen TAFE and funded by Sustainability Victoria. It is being delivered by registered training providers and TAFEs throughout the state, with the Master Painters Association of Australia ensuring that similar programs either have been or will be rolled out across the country. During the past six months, similar programs have been rolled out in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, with South Australia and the ACT due to commence their own programs in the early part of 2011.

“Within six months, every state will be running courses on sustainable painting practices,” predicts Mark Amos, CEO of Master Painters of Victoria and National Secretary of the Master Painters of Australia. “The two that haven’t implemented it – South Australia and the ACT – are in the process of putting it all together at the moment.” The course runs over 12 hours, with three assessable activities conducted outside the classroom. The cost of doing the course is “about $500,” according to Amos. Key topics covered in the program include sustainable painting practices, workplace safety for painters, waste and recycling, identifying best practices and resources for the sustainable painting industry, responding to consumer needs in preparation for work, and continuous improvement to deliver industry best practice. Graduates will be able to identify and use renewable resources and materials, as well as provide advice on the benefits of sustainable painting practices to clients.

It is expected that program participants hold a trade qualification in painting and decorating, a vocational competency equivalent to a painting trade qualification or appropriate vocational competencies in a related design or construction field that includes knowledge of painting practices. In short, those who are likely to qualify include painters, architects, builders, contract estimators and specifiers. The ramifications of the course, however, stretch beyond that group. “Retailers are going to have to become educated on low VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) so they can then advise consumers,” says Amos.

During the Victorian launch last June, Sustainability Victoria CEO, Anita Roper, spoke of the benefits of integrating sustainability into the painting industry. She said they could be broken down into three areas – economic, consumer and social. With regards to economic benefits, it will enable those who have completed the training program to gain a competitive advantage by keeping up with consumer and industry demand for sustainable practices. With the green building industry forecast to grow at 4.8% this year, business opportunities and new revenue streams are likely to emerge for those who have completed the course. Program graduates are also likely to be in a better position to tackle costs associated with waste because of an increased awareness surrounding waste production.

Consumers will also benefit through painters being more knowledgeable about products that can protect indoor air quality, for example, or carbon-friendly paints that reflect heat, as well as EPA compliance. And socially, as consumer demand grows for sustainable paints and paint-related products, the industry will be better prepared to meet that demand through having more qualified, informed operators. Operators will be able to decrease their impact on the environment through reduced water consumption and a reduction in the exposure levels of VOCs. As part of the Victorian launch, Australian Paint Manufacturers Federation CEO, Richard Phillips, outlined a strategy to implement a trade paint waste collection scheme that would be industry driven and aimed at paint waste streams from both the retail and trade markets. An application to introduce a small levy on paint manufacturers is currently being considered through the ACCC, with concerns raised by them being addressed before a pilot scheme can go ahead. For that reason, an initial target date of January 1 for introducing the scheme has been postponed until the relevant approvals are given.

For a list of organisations delivering Sustainable Painting Practice training, visit www.resourcesmart.vic.gov.au or contact your state’s Master Painters Association. MD

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