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Paint Disposal - Do It Right

Garbage and Recycling
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Leftover paint disposal is an important concern for many reasons. Painting is the easiest and least expensive form of home improvement. Paint is used to change the look of home exteriors, interiors, furniture, fixtures, and automobiles - and paint is one of the primary means of expression in art. Paint has many applications, but certain types of paint, paint thinners, and strippers are made with hazardous ingredients that have the potential to be harmful to humans, animals, ground water, and the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local governments, and environmental professionals, paint disposal is extremely important and should be handled with care.

Paint should never be thrown in the garbage, poured down the drain, or disposed of on the ground. Think about ways to limit paint waste and improper disposal: (1) purchase only the amount of paint that is needed for the job, (2) consider donating paint to a needy agency or share it with a neighbor, and (3) look for government sponsored household hazardous waste disposal facilities or events to properly dispose of paints, or (4) check with local paint retailers to find out about paint disposal or recycling options.

Proper paint disposal depends on the type of paint:

Water-based paint disposal - Latex paints are the least harmful. If you cannot donate or share these paints, dry the paint or mix it with cat litter. Remove the lid of the can to show sanitation workers that the paint is no longer in liquid form. Note: paint manufactured before 1992 may contain mercury. If you think you may have paint manufactured before 1992, contact the manufacturer or EPA to find out about proper disposal methods.

Oil-based paint disposal - These paints contain lacquer, enamel, varnish, and shellac. Never throw oil-based paints in the garbage or on the ground, or dump them down a storm drain. They are considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and should be taken to a HHW collection facility or event.

Aerosol paint disposal - Aerosol paints are made with propellants and solvents. They should be taken to a HHW collection facility or event.

Artist or hobby paint disposal - Paints for art may contain solvents or heavy metals and should also be disposed of at a government-sponsored HHW event or facility.

Be sure to store any type of paint in its original container, according to product instructions. Keep paints, paint thinner, and solvents away from sources of heat or flames and out of reach of children and pets, and use with care. Look for more information from the EPA on proper paint disposal.

Related topic: Paint Recycling

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