What it takes to label a paint product with the EU Ecolabel?
Paint products are complex and their impact on health and the environment is often not fully understood by the general public. Therefore, to give responsible manufacturers higher chances to get noticed by conscious consumers, numerous eco-label programs have been implemented worldwide. Generally, the eco-label markings are awarded only to products that meet certain criteria and are third-party evaluated.
While different eco-label programs are used around the world, this blog post will cover only the European Union Ecolabel and the specific requirements that manufacturers should comply in order to provide consumers with healthier and more environmentally friendly paints. Consequently, a reader of this blog post can develop general understanding about the core qualities of eco-labelled paint products.
What is the EU Ecolabel?
The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label established in 1992. The label includes a green flower with inclined green "ϵ" (Greek epsilon) as the flower, surrounded by 12 blue stars. On the products labeled with the EU Ecolabel, it must always be used together with the license number. The EU Ecolabel aims to promote goods and services with reduced environmental impacts all over their life-cycle, meaning from raw material sourcing to product waste management. The EU Ecolabel product evaluation requires comparison with other products in the same product group that exist on the European market, therefore contributing to more sustainable and competitive product availability and recognisability in the EU market (a, d).
Regarding indoor and outdoor paints and varnishes, the EU Ecolabel claims to reflect the most environmentally friendly products that are the best performers on the market. These claims are achieved by guarantee of:
- Minimised content of hazardous substances;
- Reduced content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs): x g/l ;
- Good performance for (both) indoor (and) or outdoor use;
- Promoting efficient use of the product and minimisation of waste;
- Reducing the environmental and other risks (such as tropospheric ozone development) by reducing solvent emissions;
- Reducing the emission of toxic or otherwise polluting substances into water (b; c).
Paint and varnish products that are eligible for the EU Ecolabel:
- indoor and outdoor decorative paints and varnishes;
- wood stains and related products intended for use by consumers and professional users falling under the scope of Directive 2004/42/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council;
- floor coatings and floor paints;
- paint products which are tinted by distributors at the request of consumers (non-professional) or professional decorators;
- tinting systems;
- decorative paints in liquid or paste formula which may have been pre-conditioned, tinted or prepared by the manufacturer to meet consumer needs (c, d).
Requirements for the EU Ecolabel
Paint product is awarded with the EU Ecolabel if it follows certain criteria concerning its chemical formulation, performance and efficiency, release of chemicals in environment and consumer information. Each of the four criteria groups include 6 subcriteria with specific requirements as stated below:
White pigment and wet scrub resistance
White pigments are inorganic pigments with a refractive index higher than 1.8.
Wet scrub resistance indicates the ability of a dried paint to resist wearing and degradation. In the EU, five resistance classes are defined to assess the coating resistance specifically to damp wiping. Resistance classes number 1 and 2 are indicating the highest abrasion resistance and cleanability, while the cheaper paints of class 4 and 5 are not sufficiently cleanable. Higher wet scrub resistance class therefore indicates a paint product that is longer lasting and slower deteriorating (e).
The EU Ecolabel is awarded to paints that have:
- White pigment content of 40 g/m2 per m2 of dry film (with 98% opacity) in the class 1 wet scrub resistance and 36 g/m2 in the class 2 wet scrub resistance. Both indoor and outdoor paints are restricted to no more that 40 g/m2 of white pigment.
- All indoor wall and ceiling paints that are tinting base and with a white pigment content above 25 g/m2 of dry film(with 98% opacity) must meet class 1 or class 2 wet scrub resistance.
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is paint ingredient, widely present in the white colour pigment. In the industrial production of TiO2 so-called sulphate and chloride processes are used creating large amount of sulphate waste and oxygenated sulphur emissions in the air as a by-product of manufacture process. Since these types of waste have a known negative impact on the environment, the EU Ecolabel has a defined base amount of maximum waste and emission allowed depending on the raw materials and processes used for TiO2 extraction.
Efficiency in use
The EU Ecolabel is also demonstrating the efficiency of the paint and varnish products, informing consumer about the label-awarded paint product quality and performance.
Requirements for the efficiency evaluation include:
Read more about sustainability and paint product performance in our blog post: link
Volatile and Semi-volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs, SVOCs)
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gaseous organic compounds having an initial boiling point lower than or equal to 250 °C (measured at a standard pressure of 101.3). VOCs are toxic chemicals that easily evaporate into the air and accumulate in the indoor environment affecting people and living organisms exposed. VOCs can also escape into the atmosphere and form smog.
Read more about VOCs in our blog post: link
The EU Ecolabel requires paint products to comply with the set value limits for VOCs and SVOCs that vary depending on the paint type, where lowest amount of 10 g/l is required for interior matt wall and ceiling paint, while the highest required amount of 80 g/l applies to interior and exterior trim and cladding paint for wood and metal as well as one-pack performance coatings.
Restriction of hazardous substances and mixtures
Paint and varnish products are among the most widely applied hazardous chemical substances used by general public. Due to the paint product chemical profile, exposure to the compounds such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), biocides and heavy metals, can have both negative health implications on humans exposed as well as negative environmental impact.
The EU Ecolabel aims to reduce negative effects associated with conventional paint products by:
- Restricting and regulating certain chemical substances and compounds present in paint.
- Restricting products that in accordance with the Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 or Directive 67/548/EEC are classified as acutely toxic, a specific target organ toxicant, a respiratory or skin sensitiser, or carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction, hazardous to the environment.
- Restricting ingredients and raw materials that contain substances that meet the criteria defined in Article 57 of the REACH regulation as well as substances of very high concern in Article 59 of the REACH Regulation.
Consumer information and product label
Information on product packaging can be a powerful tool in bridging the trust gap between manufacturer and consumer and providing information about different aspects of product properties, use, risks and sustainability.
The EU Ecolabel requires the following aspects of information to be included on the paint product packaging:
- About minimising paint wasting by estimating how much paint you will need;
- About recovering unused paint for re-use;
- About reuse of paint that can effectively minimise the products' life cycle environmental impact;
- General information and advice on how to handle and use the paint.
The EU Ecolabel (optionally) provides the following information written on the EU Ecolabel:
- Minimised content of hazardous substances;
- Reduced content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs): x g/l;
- Good performance for indoor use (where indoor criteria have been met); or
- Good performance for outdoor use (where outdoor criteria have been met); or
- Good performance for both indoor and outdoor use (where both indoor and outdoor criteria have been met) (c).
To find out more about the EU Ecolabel regarding paints and varnishes comprehensive reading material is available in the EU Ecolabel User Manual (d).
The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary third party evaluated environmental label rewarded to paint and varnish products that comply with certain quality and sustainability criteria. The manufacturer can receive the EU Ecolabel for its products after they undergo life cycle assessment and evaluation in comparison to other products of the same category in the market.
The EU Ecolabel aims to minimise the content of hazardous substances and volatile organic compounds in products, while simultaneously requiring good and competitive product quality and performance as well as reduction of emissions and waste.
The number of paint products with the EU Ecolabel are increasing on the market thus enabling consumers to make safer and more sustainable product choice without compromising for quality and performance. Choosing products with an environmental label and more specifically the EU Ecolabel is the main approach consumers in the EU member states can use in order to contribute to more responsible production as well as increased availability of products that are third-party evaluated, tested and ultimately safer for health and for the environment.
Author: written by Anse Romančuka, edited by Linda Kikuste