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The UK’s waste paint crisis

Our paint collection points at recycling centres

The UK is in a waste paint crisis, drowning in leftover and unwanted paint. Yorkshire alone has 4.5 million litres of leftover paint, this is enough paint to cover the Tees Transporter in Middlesbrough 229 times. It is even enough paint to cover the footprint of Barnsley twice with some to spare.

So, what’s the solution to the paint crisis?

Seagulls has been part of the solution for nearly 20 years, helping to divert over 3 million litres away from landfill and reprocessed it for sale in our paint store  

The Paint Store

What’s happening across the rest of the UK?

Firstly, Seagulls are unique, really making traction in the world of paint. There is no one else like us! Opportunities for recycling paint are patchy across the country. There is a scheme called Community RePaint that may operate in your area. However, you may need to check their site too see what they accept, as it is often limited to newer tins of paint.

However, all is not lost. People in high places have began to talk about what happens to leftover paint, which will work to fight the paint crisis. In spring 2021 the Royal Society of Chemists approached Seagulls, keen to understand what we do. The outcome being that they asked Seagulls to be their case study for a national campaign.

Why is a campaign needed?

According to research by the Royal Society of Chemistry, ‘Lockdown-inspired decorating has led UK households to stockpile enough paint to coat the Forth Rail Bridge 212 times.’ In partnership with celebrity decorator, interiors stylist and DIY queen Linda Barker, the Royal Society of Chemistry is calling for government action as it launches an industry task force to make DIY more sustainable, with Leeds-based reuse and recycling initiative Seagulls Reuse a perfect example of how paint could be recycled across the UK.’

Linda Barker with some of our team!

Facts & Figures

To put this amount of paint into context, the Royal Society of Chemistry has crunched some numbers, equating the amount of leftover paint to landmarks throughout the UK. It makes for some interesting reading.

North East

2 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle 170 times.

North West

5.5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover the Silver Jubilee Bridge in Runcorn 194 times.

East Midlands

3.5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover the entire footprint of the city of Lincoln.

West Midlands

4.5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover Sutton Park, Birmingham over 5 times or paint an area the size of the Bullring shopping centre 469 times.

East of England 

5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover the footprint of the city of Cambridge 1 and a half times.

London

5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover Tower Bridge over 229 times.

South East

7 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover the footprint of the city of Brighton.

South West

5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover the footprint of the city of Bath nearly twice.

Wales

2.5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover the Menai suspension bridge in Anglesey over 508 times.

Scotland

5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover Forth Rail Bridge 20 times.

Northern Ireland

1.5 million litres of leftover paint, enough to cover Rathlin Island, off the coast of Ballycastle, with some to spare or paint the Giant’s Causeway over 22 times.

You can read more about the Royal Society of Chemists campaign and if you don’t have a scheme in your area you should write to your local MP and ask them for one! Details can be found here

Staff and volunteers collect paint from a household waste site.

If you live in Leeds you can donate paint by taking it to your local household waste site. Find out where your nearest site is by clicking here

You can also sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with the campaign, our news and for special offers

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