Friday, December 4, 2015

Safely disposing old paint

Paint cans accumulating in my utility room
Do you have a place in your home where old partly used paint cans have accumulated?  Have you thought about how to dispose of those cans of paint safely?  Until recently there were very few options that are environmentally benign.  You can leave an opened can of latex paint out in the open until it dries out completely and then safely dispose it in the trash.  For smaller amounts of water-based paint left in the bottom of a can you can wash out the can in the sink and then put the cleaned empty can in the trash or if it is really clean - in the recycling bin.  This is not recommended for septic tanks however.  And finally, for solvent paints the only responsible option is to take them to a hazardous waste disposal facility which is tedious. 
There is now a new option offered through a nonprofit industry trade association called PaintCare that is setting up return/recycling centers where old paint can be turned in and recycled or disposed of properly.  This paint can now be collected for reuse, recycling, energy recovery, or safe disposal.  As of this writing, in December 2015 there are only eight states offering this service and you can use a map on their website to find a drop-off location near you.  These are typically hardware or paint stores or hazardous waste disposal sites.

According to their website: "The program is funded through fees on each container of architectural paint sold in states with paint stewardship programs. Budgets and fees are set on a state-by-state basis. So far these fees have been the same in each state with a program: 35 cents, 75 cents or $1.60 per container, depending on the container size."

I was very pleased to learn about this program and will be going through my collection of paint going back 15 years to decide what to recycle.

UPDATE - a few days later
drying out old paint residue
I just returned from the hardware store that participates in the program.  I took five  gallon cans with varying amounts of paint in them and the first thing the guy did in the paint department was to turn the lighter weight cans over and tap them on the bottom.  From this he was able to determine that there was a thin layer of congealed paint in the bottom that he could not use.  He told me that they are recycling the paint as useful paint and not as dried out material and that I should leave the cans open outside until the paint dries out and then just dispose of them in the trash.  Any can that is one third or more filled with liquid paint is useful to them.  

I asked him how often the paint was picked up and he said they cart off 250 gallons a WEEK!  This is just from one local Ace Hardware store in Maine.  Wow, talk about a successful program!

UPDATE - May 2017
I found a couple of cans that had been sitting outside for over 10 years and the gal at the paint counter shook them (they are both over 3/4 full) and said she would take them:
So I asked her is she could show me where they go and she walked me back to the loading dock to show me the special orange wrapped pallet that they fill with old paint every week:
I am so pleased to see how our community is using this resource!

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