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Painting a Bright Future: How to Recycle Paint

PaintCare Runs Stewardship Programs to Collect and Dispose of Old Paint

What do you do with leftover paint from your refreshed living room? You can't throw it in your trash bin at the curb, or in a rented dumpster since it's classified as household hazardous waste. While your options may seem limited, paint recycling programs are becoming more and more mainstream. 

The American Coatings Association established nonprofit PaintCare in 2009 to create a broad paint stewardship program that provides new opportunities for recycling, reusing and responsibly disposing of paint. With local drop-off locations in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington D.C., they may be setting up shop near you soon. 

Did you know? Recycling 1 gallon of paint saves up to 13 gallons of water and a quart of oil thanks to the resources reclaimed in the process. It also helps prevent water pollution due to improper disposal or storage. Instead of letting paint sit forgotten on a shelf in your basement or garage, see if your state has paint recycling centers or a PaintCare drop-off location. 

What Happens at a Paint Recycling Center

When paint is dropped off at a collection center, it is packed into large boxes or drums and hauled off to a sorting facility. Once at the facility, the paint is categorized based on its recyclability. 

"Our goal is to recycle as much as possible. If the paint is not recyclable into new paint, we find the next best use for it."
Brett Rodgers | Director of Communications, PaintCare

Latex and water-based paint products are separated from oil and solvent products since the recycling process is different for each one. Oil-based paint is usually sent to a cement plant where it's blended to make fuel and then burned for energy. Latex paint it recycled and reprocessed into new paint in standard, pre-tinted colors or used to make other products and even used in biodegradation projects to help extract gas at landfills. 

"Very little paint is sent to a landfill," says Rodgers. Any paint that is in almost new condition is given away as is. 

Accepted Items for Paint Recycling

  • Interior and exterior architectural paints.
  • Deck coatings.
  • Floor paints.
  • Stains.
  • Field or lawn paint.
  • Metal coatings.
  • Rust preventatives.
  • Varnishes.
  • Shellacs.
  • Lacquers.
  • Urethanes.
  • Waterproofing sealers for concrete, masonry and wood.

You can take any amount of paint or other product to a collection center, just make sure the container isn't leaking and the lid is completely sealed. Your paint must also be in the original container with a label and lid. 

What to Do When There Isn't a PaintCare Recycling Center Near You

"In states where paint stewardship laws have not yet been passed, the best options for consumers to recycle or dispose of leftover paint are government-run household hazardous waste facilities and one-day round up events. However, these programs offer limited days and hours, are often located in remote areas and some do not serve painting contractors and other businesses."
Brett Rodgers | Director of Communications, PaintCare

Outside of the states where PaintCare operates recycling centers, you can still use their drop-off site locator. Paint is typically accepted with regular trash collection only if it is completely dry within the container, but check with your municipality before leaving it at the curb.

"There you can search your own city or ZIP code in any state and find the nearest options for recycling, usually through a government-operates HHW facility or transfer station," explains Rodgers. "We strive to keep this tool up to date with locations, dates and hours, but we always recommend you call ahead after locating a drop-off facility on our website to confirm. 

Look for Paint Stewardship Programs in Your State

After a successful three-year pilot program in Oregon, PaintCare expanded service to eight states with paint stewardship laws. "We do expect additional states to pass legislation in the future," said Rodgers. 

Looking for more tips on how to recycle household items? Check out our One-Stop Guide for Recycling Information to cut down on what you send to the landfill. 

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