Myrtle Beach green columnist blasts Sherwin-Williams “cover the earth” logo

For Weekly SurgeJune 24, 2013 

Practical tips for proper paint disposal

Have you ever really paid attention to the Sherwin-Williams logo? It’s a little disturbing with it’s “cover the earth” tagline and imagery of blood red paint coating the earth. It didn’t used to be that sinister.

In fact, the first Sherwin-Williams logo was inspired by Sereno Fenn in 1885, who was captivated by color-changing chameleons while on a trip to China. Henry Sherwin, one of the company’s founders, liked the idea and the first logo became a chameleon on a painter’s palette. The company even adopted live chameleons, one was named Jack who modeled for the company’s marketing illustrations. But in 1890s George W. Ford sketched a newer logo and the general manager back then though it was an ideal way to depict the aspirations of a rapidly expanding company. On its Web site, Sherwin-Williams states that the paint is not pouring over the North Pole, but over Cleveland, Ohio, center of the paint universe. In an era of environmental awareness and controversy, why hasn’t there been a redesign of this century-old logo?

Well, instead of dwelling on this marketing don’t, I’d like to redirect my focus on the problem of paint.

Open my hall closet and you will find about five cans of half-used paint. Open my shed and find about three cans of paint that are probably about five-years-old, some almost- empty aerosol spray cans and bottles of garden chemicals. I might just be a hazardous waste mishap waiting to happen.

Do you have unknown chemicals and paint lurking in your garage, shed or home? So what do we do with all these potential hazardous materials? First, let’s try to figure out what should be kept and what should be tossed. Household hazardous material is defined as leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive ingredients, such as paint, cleaners, pool chemicals as well as lawn and garden products. With this list, you probably have more hazardous materials than you thought. So, start with paint. It should be kept at indoor temperatures and if you want to keep paint for future touch-ups, consider storing it in an airtight container with a date, color numbers, brand and sample on top.

So, for all the paint and other hazardous chemicals you don’t want to keep, here are some general options:

If the paint still can be used, try to donate it to a non-profit, church or theater group. Check to see if your school’s art class or drama program can use it. If you don’t have any luck with a donation effort, you can always take it to the Horry County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) during Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Day. On the third Saturday of every month from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., bring your unwanted paint and chemicals to the SWA facility at 1886 S.C. 90 in Conway. It’s free for residents to drop off any household paint or chemical, even unknown chemicals. If you are a business, call the SWA at 347-1651 for a list of companies that can help you. In 2012, the SWA disposed of 81 tons of household hazardous material and no, your paint and chemicals weren’t tossed it into the landfill. They keep these items separate in a special building and contract an outside company to collect and transport it to a proper disposal location, such as an incinerator. Yes, most hazardous waste, including medical waste and drugs, gets incinerated or sometimes it can be recycled, depending on the condition and what it is.

Another option is to prepare the paint for proper disposal with the following steps:

Remove the lid and allow the paint to air dry (harden) completely. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area away from children and pets.

You can add cat litter, shredded newspaper, sawdust or sand to the paint to speed up the drying process. Stir occasionally.

Once the paint is completely dried, you can dispose of it with your household garbage. This would be a different option than taking it to the HHW Collection Day.

By the way, I did learn that Sherwin-Williams receive a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the EPA in 2011 for its paint that contains recycled plastic bottles, which produces less air pollution than typical oil-based paints. Apparently, Sherwin-Williams made enough of this new paint to eliminate more than 800,000 pounds of Volatile Organic Compounds. Congrats on the award, but now let’s properly dispose of your eco-unfriendly logo and bring back Jack.

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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