BCF campaigns against solvent abuse

Creeping use of non-compliant solvents in bodyshops needs to be challenged.

This is according to British Coatings Federation (BCF), which is launching a campaign to change the law to make it illegal to use solvent-based paints in bodyshops, as opposed to the status quo which only outlaws their sale.

According to BCF, which represents 95 per cent of the UK’s coating manufacturers, up to 30 per cent of basecoat sales in the UK are solvent-based, representing a significant concern to the industry.

Tom Bowtell, chief executive of BCF, said, ‘We have mystery shopped more than 100 distributors to the bodyshop sector and in 25% of cases they have failed the legality test as they were selling solvent-based basecoats for use in general car repair, which contravenes the UK’s VOC Paint Product Regulations.’

The organisation has now written to the UK’s 200+ Trading Standards Offices, highlighting the issue and the need for greater enforcement and has already reported a number of distributors to their local authority’s enforcement officers when non-complaint product has been discovered.

The campaign has the support of ACIS, the UK’s leading distributor to the accident repair sector.

Graham O’Neill, CEO of ACIS, said, ‘Currently those who are knowingly using non-compliant paint products for motor vehicle repairs can escape prosecution – what’s more, the chances of them getting caught are extremely low due to the under-resourced regime of enforcement available from cash-strapped local authorities.

‘The BCF has been giving advice to the industry, including bodyshops, to make sure all are compliant and aware of the legal exemptions for vintage cars, motorcycles and construction and agricultural vehicles, but many bodyshops still use solvent-based coatings on cars which fall outside of the exclusions.

‘As a business, ACIS does not supply any non-compliant paint products and we have strict protocols in place to ensure this is policed.

‘However, there are many bodyshops that do use solvents through other supply chains. This is not because they are trying to gain some financial advantage through the lower cost of such products, but due to other practical concerns. Solvent-based coatings can dry faster and allow more volume in bodyshops where they might not have the latest technology as water-based basecoats require special drying equipment. For example, some bodyshops have older booths that cannot dry water-based coatings.

‘Obviously, they would not see themselves as law-breakers but they know the chances of getting caught under the current enforcement regimes is minimal – local authorities simply do not have the resources to regularly check. The end result is they get away with it and believe there is no real harm done.

‘However, the regulations are there for a purpose and we, and our businesses, all have a responsibility to the environment.’