When it’s time to get rid of that old can of paint, it’s important to know that you can’t simply just toss it into the trash. Paint is considered a household hazardous waste that can do severe damage to the environment if dumped in a landfill and allowed to seep into the ground. Even if you seal the can tightly, that’s not a sufficient way of keeping the paint from getting into the soil and, quite possibly, sinking into the groundwater.
There are several smart choices you can make to rid yourself of the excess paint without damaging the environment or breaking city/state laws:
1. Old paint isn’t necessarily bad paint. Consider looking around your home for something that needs a fresh coat, like a chair, lamp or table, and going ahead and using up the remaining paint in the can.
2. Consider donating your paint to a local non-profit agency or community group (Habitat for Humanity, church organizations, nursing homes) that may find a use for the paint in one of their projects.
3. If the above options aren’t possible, check the amount of paint in the can. If the paint is completely dry-not just a hard skin covering wet paint – the paint can be thrown away. If there is a small amount left, leave the paint can open and allow it to air dry or put kitty litter in the can to dry the paint before throwing it in the trash.
Do not dry up oil-based paint or paint containing lead. Contact your city/county Solid Waste or Public Works department.
4. Another option is to find something to paint, a piece of discarded wood, a broken chair, and then throw the wood or chair and the empty paint can in the trash.
5. Consider contacting local paint stores to see if they recycle certain paints or offer suggestions on how to dispose of paint in your area properly.
It’s important to know that every city and county has its own rules and guidelines for the proper disposal of paints. The above options will, in most cases, be acceptable. Contact your city or county Solid Waste department or Public Works division for more information before discarding paint and paint cans in the trash. Some agencies offer pick-up of paint and recycling (latex paints only) options.
An important rule of thumb is to buy what you need and use what you buy. By doing this, we can save the environment and avoid wasting paint at the same time.