Let’s rethink and revolutionise paint together!
Welcome! I’m Lorie - founder of The Positive Paint Company and the Radical Plastic-Free Paint brand.
To explain how my radical paint journey began, we need to go back a few years.
I hope you’re sitting comfortably.
Mission #1 - To radically change how the waste management industry disposed of electrical appliances in the UK
“There is nothing I like better than trying to do something I am told is impossible!”
Let’s rewind to the late 1990s. My mission back then had been to radically change how old fridges and other electrical appliances were disposed of in the UK. In those days, electrical equipment was land-filled or shredded with no consideration of the harm caused to the natural environment, the ozone layer, or the climate.
At the time, I was under-educated (having left school at 16 with less-than-great results), financially unstable, and I had very few business connections. I didn’t have any prior experience in the waste management sector, and I did not understand the constraints these businesses operated within.
I decided I had to go back to school to gain qualifications while simultaneously researching the sector in-depth. I also had to seek out and win support from the people I needed to affiliate myself with. And I had to secure resources and overcome my own financial problems - no mean task!
At the start of the process, my business advisor told me he would eat his hat if I was still around in five years. I presented the hat to him five years later during a meeting at the University of Exeter, where I had secured office space, connections, grant funded resources, and perhaps more knowledge about electrical waste than anyone else in the industry.
Bless him - he tried his best to eat that hat!
Today, it is mandatory to recycle waste electrical equipment. Electrical appliances and electronic devices are now banned from entering landfill, and over 70% of their parts are recovered and recycled. The best part is that 99% of all harmful ozone-depleting substances and greenhouse gasses are captured, meaning they no longer enter our atmosphere.
The journey from Mission Impossible to Mission Complete had been a monumental challenge, but a great success. It had taken 20 years of my life.
For the first couple of years of that journey, many in the (male-dominated) environmental waste sector described me as “that mad female environmentalist from Devon.” But, over the years, this description morphed into “global expert” in my field. I represented the UK in DTI Global Watch Missions throughout Japan and Europe.
I didn’t achieve this because anyone encouraged me to do it. I succeeded because I was constantly told it was not possible or not practical to do so.
Yes, I am very stubborn once I decide to take on a mission worth pursuing.
My new retirement hobby
Fast forward to 2009, and I was technically in retirement. I had embarked on a new pastime, and was happily renovating, repurposing, and upcycling old furniture that would have otherwise gone to waste. I began encouraging others to do the same, and gradually this became a new small business venture.
A health problem
It wasn’t long before the processes involved in stripping, sanding and blasting away old paint and varnish began to affect my health. It was a gradual deterioration - the odd headache, the occasional coughing fit, episodes of breathlessness, and periods of feeling lethargic and slightly depressed. But I took little notice - after all, I was getting older.
Then, six months before the global pandemic hit, things took a sudden turn for the worse. I got out of bed one day and found I could not breathe. There was pain in my chest and I was gasping for air. I thought I was having a heart attack. It turned out that I was actually having my first major asthma attack.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that what I was doing for a living was killing me. For 10 years, I had been overexposing myself to VOCs, and I had breathed in too many synthetic plastic microparticles, biocides and chemicals. This was despite having taken extreme care to wear masks and breathing apparatus, and to ventilate my work areas. I had to concede that the only solution was to stop painting furniture and find something else to do.
Along came Covid
My recuperation period happened to coincide with the announcement of the first national lockdown in the UK - another reason my business prospects were suddenly not looking so good. My health problems had forced me to stop upcycling furniture, and now the entire world seemed to be hurtling towards a catastrophe. The scientists were telling us that the Covid-19 virus was particularly dangerous for people with asthma. I don’t mind admitting I was pretty scared.
A bright idea
But then, I had an idea. Previously, to complement my upcycling work, I had been stocking and selling small quantities of paint to clients, and via eBay, and I was a small distributor for a specialist paint manufacturer based in Holland. I had large quantities of this paint sitting in my warehouse gathering dust, since I had once purchased far too much to take advantage of a discount. I figured I might as well list the paint in a few online stores and try to sell as much as possible, since the other side of my business seemed to be heading down the pan.
A welcome surprise
As it happened, that’s as far as any thinking went. I woke the next morning to find myself inundated with paint orders. I’d made more sales in one day than I had for the previous six months, and each day that passed matched or beat the previous one.
I was suddenly wrapping and packing paint for 16 hours a day, non-stop, for the whole of April 2020. By May, I had completely sold out. Paypal put my accounts on hold because of an “unusual trading pattern," and I was done.
Finally, I could stop and think! It had been hard work, but financially lucrative. I was breathing so much better and I could now get enough rest. Everything was looking much more positive.
I had always thought the paint I sold was environmentally friendly. It was odourless, chalk and water-based, child friendly, and it had a low level of VOCs. It was good stuff, but over-exposure had hurt me... and there I was, selling it to others.
It was playing on my mind, so I mentioned it to my husband. He swiftly pointed out that if I wanted a truly environmentally friendly paint, then I would need to get rid of the plastic resins and ensure that any VOCs or chemicals were smellable. He argued that anything less would be a waste of time and that I had best stop thinking about it, as there was no such thing as plastic-free paint. Knowing me as he does, he added sarcastically that if I felt I could conjure up a plastic-free paint that performed as well as my current paint choice, then I should by all means go ahead.
So, there it was… negativity - and all the inspiration I needed (I so love my husband).
Enter Mission #2 - To radically change the paint industry for the better, by removing plastic from paint
“Being able to turn something negative into something positive is the greatest gift in the world. We all have that gift. It doesn’t matter how big or small, or whether the change is radical or just a teeny improvement - changing the negative to a positive is in all of our hands.”
I figured that just because I hadn't found it, did not mean it didn't exist or it couldn't be done. So, once again, I put myself out there (albeit via the internet this time), communicating with as many chemists and scientists as I could, while continuing to tell myself there had to be a way.
And indeed there was - the solution had already been invented! It was on a shelf collecting dust, like lots of good ideas. The person who had invented it was far too busy running a very successful paint manufacturing business to put his new paint on the market, nor would it have been ethical to do so.
Yes, it needed a bit of tweaking, and a lot more practical testing, but the solution was there - and once you have the solution, people start taking notice. So, we tweaked and tested, then tweaked and tested some more… and finally, my dream of Radical Plastic Free Paint became a reality!
The rest, as they say, is history. It’s early days, but the future is looking positive. I sincerely hope you enjoy using the paint as much as I have enjoyed producing it.
Over to you
Committing to using plastic-free, low VOC paint wherever we can is one of those positive changes we can all make. This brave new paint will not radically change anything unless enough of us decide to do this as soon as possible.
A litre of plastic-free paint, in the big scheme of things, is neither here nor there. But millions of tons of plastic-free paint will make a positive difference.
It won’t happen overnight, but together we can make this positive change a reality, sooner rather than later.
Join us in our mission to radically change the paint industry for the better.
My personal commitments
I have committed to: -
- Buying used or unwanted products for all of my personal needs;
- Reducing my reliance on plastic generally, and using plastic-free alternatives whenever I can;
- Never buying plastic bags for my own personal use;
- Buying local, and via small businesses wherever possible;
- Donating to charity any product I no longer have use for, no matter how small (as long as they are happy to take it);
- Reducing the amount of waste I produce by buying smarter;
- Sorting and separating my waste for recycling properly.
What have you committed to?
With love and positivity,
Lorie Randall MBA, Founder of The Positive Paint Company Limited.