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PaintCare: A New Destiny for Unwanted Paint

Non-profit guides you to the proper disposal of leftover household paint


With the environment increasingly on everyone’s mind, disposal of potentially toxic items, unused household paint among them, is a topic that has moved to the front burner. Enter PaintCare, a not-for-profit organization created by the American Coatings Association to establish paint product stewardship legislation in the U.S. The first such law was passed in Oregon in 2009 and similar legislation has since been passed in California and Connecticut.

The goal of PaintCare is to manage the reuse, recycling and proper disposal of unused architectural paint. The idea is that the end of your project doesn’t always mean the end of your paint supply and that paint can go on to great things. At Acrylatex, for example, unwanted latex paint is recycled into new paint and coatings, as well as colorful ground cover for use in decorative landscaping.

Even PaintCare’s tagline gets right to the point: From Garage to Glorious - From Basement to Beautiful - From Storage to Spectacular.

The 5-point Plan

PaintCare has developed a 5-point plan that will help you whether you are a professional or a consumer to get the most out of your paint purchase and also to dispose of unwanted portions in a manner that’s safe for people and the planet.

Buy Right: Your first goal as a consumer or a professional is to purchase only as much as you need. Given the dimensions of your project, a paint retailer or professional designer or painter should be able to guide you to the proper volume needed for your task. But, since this is sometimes easier said then done, you’re next step is to...

Store Properly: If it happens you finish painting your space and still have a decent amount of paint left over, you must store it properly if you would like it to be in a usable state in the future. For best results, PaintCare recommends covering the opening of the paint can with plastic wrap and then securely sealing the lid. You’ll want to store the unused paint in a place with a moderate room temperature, to avoid overheating or freezing, and, of course, store it out of the reach of children and pets.

Reuse/Donate: The key now is to not forget about the paint you’ve stored away. Note the name of the room or project for which it was used on the can for touch-ups or mix it with other leftovers to use either as a base coat for a larger job or to create a brand new color of your own. You also can donate the unused portion to local organizations like theatre companies or church groups who can put the remaining portion to good use.

Recycle: If disposal is the route you need to take, doing so properly is key. PaintCare notes that many communities collect paint for reuse and/or recycling and also will arrange for proper disposal through local Household Hazardous Waste collection programs. Check in with Earth911.com or 1.800.CLEANUP for programs in your area.

Dispose Properly: If none of the options for recycling or donation are an option, you’ll need to take care of proper disposal yourself. Your first step is to learn what constitutes “proper” disposal in your area. Some areas allow you to dry small amounts of paint (less than 1/2 inch) in the bottom of a paint can and then discard the can with the lid off. Larger amounts of paint can be dried with absorbent materials like shredded paper or kitty litter, allowing you to dispose of the dried latex paint as trash and recycle the can.

For more useful information and updates on programs in different states, check in the with PaintCare website regularly.

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