Tackling the environmental consequences of COVID-19

18 April 2023

Huzaifa Matawala, CEO of The Paint Foundation, discusses how his non-profit enterprise helped its local communities during the COVID pandemic and how it tackled sustainability issues that arose from increased production of PPE equipment and hand sanitisers

I am proud that The Paint Foundation has made a significant impact in the community through two key solutions: Firstly, our efforts in donating essential products worth more than US$30M helped to save lives during a time of crisis; a truly rewarding achievement. Secondly, our commitment to keeping hazardous waste away from landfills has had a significant environmental impact, further reinforcing our dedication to sustainability.

Saving lives

We all play a significant role in changing lives with our efforts all around the year. This time, as a non-profit foundation, we were able to do a job that also saved lives. There couldn’t have been a more crucial time than COVID and a more significant cause than saving lives. A time when the world came to a standstill and our assumptions of being self-sufficient and solid was put to the test. It was by chance that The Paint Foundation was chosen for the job to move one of the largest inventories of COVID-19 PPE.

COVID-19 brought several changes to our lives and business models also changed alongside it. Survival during those two years of the pandemic challenged businesses, industries and lifestyles. Equipment, medicines, masks, face shields, hand sanitisers, disinfectant wipes and solutions along with several kinds of gowns, gloves, etc., were produced on a larger scale than ever. Some places didn’t receive enough of it at the beginning but during the peak of COVID, production of these items accelerated and a situation arose where a lot of COVID cleaning items, sanitisers and PPE goods flooded the market.

Environmental consequences

While COVID-19 cleaning items have undoubtedly helped protect us from the virus, they have also posed a significant threat to the environment when disposed of improperly. Solvent-based cleaners and ethyl-based sanitisers, when buried in landfills or blended with fuel, can have detrimental effects on the soil’s fertility for several years. At our foundation, we take great care to minimise the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in our paints, hazardous solvents and hydrocarbons that can evaporate into the air and pollute the breathable atmosphere surrounding painted surfaces. These pollutants can significantly impact the quality of life and contribute to atmospheric damage when paints are blended with fuel. The production of COVID-19 products also generates a substantial carbon footprint.

Moreover, the production and transportation of these products requires a significant amount of water, fuel and gas, all of which have their own environmental consequences. As an organisation, we remain committed to minimising our impact on the environment and to promoting sustainability in every aspect of our work.

Paint recycling and COVID-19 relief

As a paint recycling operation, we were presented with the challenge of what to do with hundreds of thousands of gallons of COVID-19 PPE products that were no longer needed in one part of the world but could become an environmental hazard if not disposed of properly. While some communities had been able to put the worst of the pandemic behind them, others were still struggling and had shortages of essential COVID-19 products. The Paint Foundation was able to step in and help, using our network to deliver a quantity equivalent to 500 truckloads of brand new PPE items to communities in need.

The delivery of these goods was not without its challenges. We encountered issues with working hours, shortages of trucks and containers, skyrocketing fuel prices, logistics, warehousing shortages and other unforeseen obstacles. However, with the help of our partners, including churches, non-profits, communities, corporations, food banks, distribution centres, and transporters, we were able to successfully distribute these products to areas of need both in the United States and around the world.

This charity effort, equivalent to more than US$30M worth of PPE products, was the most significant opportunity we have had in over five decades in the sustainability industry. It is a testament to the power of working together towards a common goal, regardless of industry or background. Through our work in sustainability and charity, we can deliver remarkable results, demonstrating that it is possible to prioritise both environmental impact and community well-being.

There are now new opportunities available for Australian paint companies. We can load shipments directly from the factory door in Australia and transport them in sea containers for reuse as a recycled product in our production batches. The Paint Foundation has started operations in Australia and has already loaded shipments from the coatings, resin and ink industries. We specialise in handling both hazardous and non-hazardous shipments and we have the expertise to convert unsalable, unusable, off-spec and waste materials into usable products using our proprietary formulations.

Our circular reuse options help coating industries reduce waste and lower their environmental impact through our partnership. By working with The Paint Foundation, Australian factories can enhance their corporate social responsibility and make a meaningful contribution to communities in need. Manufacturers in Australia can aim to become zero-waste corporations and reduce their carbon footprint.

If you are interested in partnering with The Paint Foundation for a circular reuse option, please contact: [email protected] 

Author profile

Huzaifa Matawala is a third generation paint manufacturer and a modern entrepreneur with presence in India, UAE, Africa & USA. His scholarly articles and presentations are published globally. He founded a US non-profit handling environmental and philanthropic projects, with patents in process. He has set examples of social and corporate responsibility with www.thepaintfoundation.com and www.regentpaintsusa.com, creating simple business fundamentals and impactful campaigns, such as ‘The Million litres of Paints donation’ and the ‘truckloads of free sanitiser scheme’.


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