While paints are not something for which environmental footprint is commonly taken into account, it may be worthwhile to realize that even if the toxic materials released as gases or water waste may be serious in cases of mass production and transporting to a wide market, which is how Marie’s seemingly operates. However, considering the absence of outright concerning data as well as the significant price difference between an affordable for ordinary use brand like Marie’s compared to a comparatively transparent and sustainably conscious company such as Winsor and Newton, it is more a question of the amount of the individual’s usage of paint which could determine their choice. Since I paint infrequently, I would still opt for Marie’s because my demand and I imagine, impact would be minimal as compared to an art student who would be likely to contribute a lot more in terms of the manufacturing, delivery, and waste that might accompany purchasing a set of paints since they would require them more often.
Usually paints are created from four main materials: additives, pigments, resin, and solvents. The selection of these is done according to the quality, type, and color of paint being produced. There is no information regarding which materials are used in Marie’s acrylics on the box or the website. Usually these are generally safe for humans if used in the intended way (such as avoiding consumption or contact with eyes) but may be dangerous as waste materials. Propylene glycol, a common solvent in acrylics is particularly threatening to aquatic life when disposed of in water bodies. In addition, paint colors are derived from prime and extender pigments such as titanium oxide (the latter’s manufacturing process contributes to emissions of several harmful gases e.g. carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, methane etc.). There is also a release of volatile organic compounds or VOCs when paints dry after their application which contribute to smog, ozone depletion, and pose health risks but nowadays some paint companies are producing non-VOC containing paints or those that use water-based solvents such as Winsor and Newton in an attempt to reduce ecological damage. However, the contents of Marie’s paints are not disclosed so it is difficult to evaluate their impact. The paints are contained in aluminium tubes and packed into cardboard boxes and the information of where these materials are brought in from is unavailable and while they are recyclable materials, whether or not they are recycled is left to the decision of the consumer.
Although the website of the business indicates that after expanding into international markets, they have managed to employ more advanced technology in paint quality and production methods through help particularly from Europe and the US. They also provide an Approved Product seal certificate from the Art and Creative Materials Institute’s (ACMI) Toxicology Advisory Board that labels products for sale in the US according to results of medical testing for potentially harmful substances which could make it unsuitable for consumer use. Some of these paints which include materials that are hazardous if ingested for example paints that use cobalt are also labelled with a relevant warning. But this certification only extends to their oil, acrylic, and watercolor paints with specific colors. The website does not have any content regarding factories or offices which could provide an insight into the inputs, fuel, or machinery used in their operations or the working conditions of the employees.
Shanghai SIIC Marie Painting Materials Co., Ltd. was the result of the merging of the primary Marie’s art factory with a larger local manufacturing company which is what probably increased the scale of their operations and has led them to stand, even today, as the biggest and most renowned producer of art materials in China and with an export market spanning over 60 countries. They have a range of products such as pastel, gouache, oil, water, and acrylic paints. Some of the paints including acrylics come in categories of Masters or Maries which vary in quality and price and the former are mainly aimed at professional artists since they are popular among them in addition to the regular consumers.