The sustainable solution
This year, AkzoNobel has made its largest ever global investment. The company's new plant at Ashington in Northumberland cost more than £100 million to build and will become the centre of production for Dulux, the UK's most popular paint brand.
As well as doubling the current UK production levels to 200 million litres per year, the factory is also being hailed as the most sustainable paint plant in the world.
"Sustainability is in the DNA of the plant". That's the conclusion of head of manufacturing Jeff Hope on the opening of what AkzoNobel say is the world's most sustainable paint factory.
The £100 million plant in Ashington will recycle all its water and 90% of the solvents used to make paints. Instead of open vessels, as at the Slough site it replaces, Ashington's processing is fully closed-loop. Solvents that can be reused are reprocessed, while any residues will be consumed as a secondary fuel by other industries.
Rainwater harvesting for new paint manufacture - a process pioneered at the nearby Prudhoe plant - will also be used at Ashington once all existing products have passed quality control standards. For water-based paints, the water is flushed through a processing unit and clean water reclaimed, while any solid residues are also passed on as a secondary fuel.
The plant's energy requirements are met by a variety of renewables sources, including solar panels and a biomass boiler that burns wood pellets from managed forests in the UK. Head of manufacturing Jeff Hope says: "The whole building is designed to use less" - even down to the lighting and workforce showers.
"You can design in certain aspects of sustainability - but it's about people using the processes to reduce the waste. We've instilled a culture of everyone questioning: is there an alternative to binning waste; can anyone else use it?"
AkzoNobel expects that each litre of paint produced will have a carbon footprint half that of products made at the replaced plants.
In addition, the entire site is designed in a basin so that there can be no spillages into the outside environment. Surface water can be held in an underground reservoir, so that in an emergency there would be no soil or groundwater contamination from the plant.
Thierry Vanlancker, CEO of AkzoNobel, says: "We are investing in highly innovative and sustainable production facilities such as Ashington to maintain and grow our leadership position, ensuring the best products for our customers in the UK and around the world.
"AkzoNobel's growth strategy means that we will continue to lead the paints and coatings industry in both the strongest brands and the most advanced technology."