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Paint Disposal

Painting
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Paint disposal laws and regulations are set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The enforcement of these laws, and therefore the ways of dealing with hazardous materials such as paint and painting supplies, are often handled slightly differently from community to community. Before disposing of any paint, always check with the proper local authorities or a local paint contractor to determine local paint disposal laws. The easiest way to dispose of excess paint is to donate it. There may be a community, school, or religious organization that could use paint to improve public spaces, paint murals, design sets, or build floats.

One of the most common misconceptions is that oil-based paint is hazardous and acrylic, or water-based, paint is safe. Water-based paint is considered a hazardous material as it can pollute groundwater and contaminate drinking water supplies. If manufactured before 1992, acrylic paint may contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal. In most communities, individuals can dispose of dry acrylic paint in a plastic bag with their normal trash. Always leave paint can lids off of the can to show that the paint inside is dry and ready for disposal. The paint can be dried little by little in a pan or soaked in kitty litter to absorb the paint and dry it out.

Paint manufactured before 1977 may contain lead and should not be used. Any old paint, be it oil- or water-based, that may contain lead should be left closed and taken to a hazardous waste collection facility, rather than dried.

All disposal of oil-based paint should be handled at a local household hazardous waste collection event. These events are usually held several times a year across the country. If the paint is unusable due to contamination, freezing, or separation these events are available so that individuals can properly dispose of hazardous, leftover paint and other household hazardous waste such as batteries.

Proper paint disposal is not just important for wall paint. For most people, other types of paint pass under the radar and their hazardous qualities are not considered when they are disposed of. For example, hobby and model paints often contain special finishes, heavy metals, and other hazardous solvents. Although the bottle may be small, the paint still contributes to the contamination of the local environment. When model, hobby, or art paint is disposed of, the same care needs to be taken as would be taken with any other hazardous paint. Acrylics can be dried and disposed of in the trash and oil-based and metallic paints should be either passed on to other hobbyists or disposed of at a local hazardous waste event.

Related topics: Paint Recycling, Paint Disposal - Do It Right

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