How to Recycle Paint

Home & Family, Living Green
on November 9, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that 64 million gallons of paint is thrown out annually in the United States. That's enough paint to cover millions of babies' rooms and fill up millions of "honey-do" lists this Saturday. The EPA, state and local governments, nonprofits, paint manufacturers, retailers, paint recyclers and contractors are committed to finding environmentally safe solutions to dispose of or reuse this discarded paint. They need your help. Keeping paint out of the landfill is easier than you may think. Here's how:

Recycling centers. You can find paint recycling centers in most major American cities. Websites such as Earth911 will help you locate where to take unused paint for recycling. Oil-based paints, because they are considered hazardous waste, can't be recycled and must be disposed of at a hazardous waste center. Never pour paint into storm drains; set it out for trash pickup or burn it.

Use it for a future project. Paint lasts for years, if stored properly. The Learning Channel Online suggests the following steps for proper paint storage: Cover the paint can opening with plastic wrap. Secure the lid. Allow the paint to create its own seal by turning it upside down (make sure the lid's on tight). Store the can upside down, away from kids and away from freezing temperatures.

Donate it. Myriad organizations exist that would gladly take your paint. They include local schools, graffiti clean-up groups, religious groups, community groups or local theaters.

Plan well. The easiest way to keep paint out of landfills is to plan properly. Buy the right amount of paint. Measure how much paint you'll need for the next project and buy accordingly. Your local paint supplier will be happy to help. If you're not sure, buy the lesser amount and go back to the paint store, if necessary. This strategy will also save you money. Once the paint is mixed, most stores won't take it back.

Dispose of it properly. Ideally, you'll find a way to use extra paint. Sometimes, however, it's just not possible. If there's less than an inch of paint left in the can, remove the lid and set it outside to dry. Recycle the can once the paint dries. If the can contains more than an inch, you can take it to a paint recycling center or pour the contents into a paint absorbent material and recycle the can.