How to Dispose of Paint

October 9, 2009 | by Ethan (email) |

483718392_0583320834It’s good to keep a little extra paint around for touch-ups, but over time it’ll start to accumulate. Before you know it, you have tons of paint that isn’t even current. Or, perhaps like me, the previous owner left you quite the “treasure trove” of leftover paints. Either way, it’s important to know how to dispose of paint properly. This post will layout all the options – donating, recycling, and how to dispose of paint.

Donating Paint

The best way to get rid of paint is giving it to someone that wants it. Lots of places will accept paint donations. Earth911 lists some great options including local drama groups and Habitat for Humanity. I called my local Habitat ReStore and here are their guidelines for paint donations.

  • Unopened paint is preferred, but they will accept slightly used paint. Basically, there needs to be a significant portion leftover.
  • It must be latex paint. They do not accept oil based paint.
  • The paint must be in good condition. That means it’s not contaminated and can be stirred to a smooth consistency.

You should also consider posting unwanted paint to sites like Freecycle or The ReUseIt Network. If your paint is in good condition, odds are that someone actually wants it.

Recycled Paint

Paint can also be recycled. This is usually the best option for old or small amounts of paint that cannot be donated. Latex paint can be recycled into new paint or used to make various, non-paint items like concrete and cement. Oil-based paint has fewer options but can be burned as fuel to create energy.

There are two types of recycled latex paint- reprocessed and reblended.

Reprocessed paint is created from latex paint that is mixed with virgin materials like resins and colorants. These paints are filtered, pH adjusted, tested and then resold. Reprocessed paint contains at least 20% post-consumer content.

Reblended paint is a mixture of latex paint with very few materials added. It’s typically 80% – 100% post-consumer content and there is minimal testing done.

Paint Disposal

Disposing of paint should be your last option. Each area has different guidelines. For the most accurate information, check with your local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection center.

Begin by checking the label. Paint older than 1978 may contain lead and paint before 1991 may contain mercury. These materials should be listed on the label and, if present, are considered a hazardous waste. Furthermore, all oil-based paint is considered hazardous. All these paints should be disposed of at a HHW facility.

Latex paint is also considered hazardous by a few states -California, Washington, and Minnesota and should be taken to a HHW facility. Other states allow you to dispose of hardened latex paint in the regular trash. Here are some options for hardening paint.

  • Let the paint air dry. Do it in a well ventilated space as this releases lots of fumes.
  • Add an absorbant material like sawdust or clay kitty litter.
  • Purchase a paint hardener. It should be dry in a few hours.

How to Find Paint Recycle / Disposal Centers

Use this handy widget to find facilities near you.

What do you think? What do you do with your paint?
Image courtesy of Ms..G

5 Responses
  1. Why S? says:

    1 – I had no idea paint could be recycled. That’s great!
    2 – Is there anyone still holding on to paint from pre-1978?
    3 – that widget thing is fabulous. Thanks.

    Last weekend we went through our extra paint and planned to take it to our Habitat ReStore in Pasadena. They’re still sitting here. Maybe this weekend. Good to know about the recycling option. We have several cans that may not have enough left to be an acceptable donation.

  2. Maury says:

    I am going to paint the interior of my house and my concern is that up until a year ago, we smoked in the house. I have washed the heaviest stains but everything has a yellow stain to it. What primer has the best results for covering this without leeching through?
    Thanks for any input.

    • Bev says:

      Behr ultra Premium Plus is super great for covering smoke/nicotine. We used kilz on the ceiling then painted. We just painted the walls without using anything else but the paint. There is no bleed-though or odors Of smoking at all! Cannot day enough good things about Bebe paint. Their deck products are excellent as well. I’ll pay a bit more for lasting work, great results, and high quality.

  3. Drake says:

    I have been using recycled paint for the past few years and it works great. Especially if you are on a budget and need an overall good primer base before putting on a final exterior paint color. This year used different colors of used paints and came up with a beige-ish putty color which I used as a primer on my mobile home. The color by itself was so good I considered just stopping there but then went ahead and used a finish color.

    I did have some problems locating used paint however. I tried CraigsList BUT my posts were removed because it was flagged as ‘begging’. I ended up using and got the most amount of paint from people there. I’m in a rural part of Wisconsin and their paint recycling here leaves a lot to be desired. The Hazardous Waste Recycling center in Bloomington, MN however was an excellent source for paint. In two years I have redone the entire interior and exterior of my home using primarily recycled paints.

    If you have paint you want to give away and get rid of, I would suggest Freecycle, the groups, and CraigsList. You might also phone or contact mobile home communities near you to see if owners there who are on fixed or low incomes could use the paint.

  4. JustME says:

    Great information Ethan.
    I’ve never heard of ReUseIt so I checked to see if there was one in our area. There isn’t so I emailed them to find out how to get one started.
    In the past I’ve offered left over paint on Craigslist Free forum and had no trouble finding someone happy to have it. If you don’t want to put up an ad you can also check the wanted forum and almost always find someone looking for paint.

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