Found in the warmer waters of the southern Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, olive ridleys are one of the smallest species of sea turtles on the planet. These solitary sea turtles, whose population has been decreasing worldwide for some time, are also the inspiration behind the name of a new local company: Olive Ridley Paints, the first recycled-content paint brand available in New York State.
Sarah Battaglia, founder and CEO, worked in industrial and household waste management for several years, which gave her a firsthand look at the high environmental and economic costs of proper paint disposal. Oil-based paints are hazardous, meaning they cannot be dropped at the curb, and, instead, must be returned at household hazardous waste collections. Meanwhile, latex paint is recyclable. Legislation has created programs in several states nationwide; in New York, however, a recycling bill passed the State Senate but stalled in the Assembly last year for the third time.
“It’s inconvenient, expensive, and expansive—it affects pretty much everyone,” says Battaglia, noting the average home has sixty pounds of paint on hand. “I’ve seen hundreds coming from one home. Sometimes, people have two or three [cans], but sometimes it’s decades worth of paint.”
In 2013, Battaglia decided to launch her own company, Solara Inc., to provide environmental consulting and waste management support. Along the way, she became more interested in product stewardship, the idea that those who design, manufacture, sell, and use products should also be responsible for reducing negative effects to the environment or public health along the product’s lifecycle.
Battaglia began researching: does recycled-content paint meet the needs of the architecture and design industry? And is there a demand for it? She answered both questions yes—and launched Olive Ridley Paints in April 2017, with nineteen colors of interior paint, two interior/exterior blends, and a primer.
“No one else was putting the pieces together,” she says. “Household hazardous waste is this small niche, but it affects all of us to a bigger degree than we realize with our [tax] money and environment.”
To find a supplier and see the recycling process firsthand, Battaglia toured facilities in the United States and Canada, including the first American paint recycler in Portland, Oregon. She settled on a supplier who she felt could produce a consistently high-quality product, a key component of finding a market for her paint and any eco-friendly products, she says.
“A recycled-content product is never going to work if that quality isn’t there,” Battaglia says. “In any recycling situation, we need to create demand for the end product. By using Olive Ridley, you’re stimulating demand for paint recycling, therefore diverting more paint from landfill.”
So, how does paint recycling work? In states and provinces that offer it, the unwanted paint is collected by municipalities or counties at household hazardous waste drop-off events and sent to the recycling facility, which does a series of quality control tests to look for contaminants. Oil-based paints are blended to create a fuel, while latex paint is sorted by color and blended into batches. The resulting batch then undergoes additional testing for bacteria, pH, density, viscosity, odor, gloss, and other factors, and any batches outside of normal levels will be adjusted and retested until they meet quality standards and are shipped out.
All of Olive Ridley’s products have earned ECOLOGO certification, a third-party environmental performance standard with metrics for such categories as energy, health and environment, product performance, product stewardship, and innovation. The brand’s indoor paint varieties are made up of ninety-five percent post-consumer content, with the interior/exterior paints and primer coming in at eighty-five and seventy-five percent recycled content, respectively.
The unwanted paint is collected by municipalities or counties at household hazardous waste drop-off events and sent to the recycling facility, which does a series of quality control tests to look for contaminants.
The environmental benefits of using recycled paint are numerous. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leftover recycled paint is “a product that, when fully used, can be completely diverted from end-of-life management challenges”—good news, as the EPA estimates that ten percent of all paint purchased annually goes unused, equivalent to about sixty-four million gallons. According to Battaglia, recycled-content paint generates four times less greenhouse gas and conserves a hundred kilowatt hours of energy compared to conventional paint.
Since launching last April, Battaglia says Olive Ridley has been well received, particularly by the architecture, design, and construction community, which she has strategically focused on over in-store consumer sales. One of her favorite aspects of her growing company is giving continuing education presentations to architects on specialty waste management, the paint lifecycle, and the LEED credits available by using her brand.
“I love seeing the light bulbs go off,” she says. “By the end of these presentations, they’re literally on the edge of their seats, like, ‘This is awesome. How can we help you?’”
In the coming months, Battaglia hopes her paint will find its way onto the walls of more local institutions and organizations. Long term, her goal is for Olive Ridley to be the green brand of choice for architects and developers across the country.
If that happens, the olive ridley sea turtle that inspired her branding will go national—as the logo on every Olive Ridley paint can.
“Why is this important to me? It comes back to preserving our fresh water resources,” Battaglia says. “Without providing convenient solutions for homeowners, many people tend to take the easy way out. They might find alternatives for dumping the paint, and that could lead to pollution, leeching, and a negative impact on the local environment and for the next generation.”