When we moved into our current home, there were paint cans corresponding to every room in our home; some more full than others. There were both alkyd (oil) and latex paints. The previous owners were “kind” enough to leave their problem with us to deal with. In my previous life, I worked at a paint store. At that time, although it was the right thing to do, our store didn’t accept back old paint for recycling. If your company produces a toxic product, then it should be your responsibility to assist in the safe disposal of that product, but sadly, this isn’t the case for most paint companies.
The National Paint and Coatings Association (NPCA) recommends the following procedures to deal with proper latex paint disposal after the reduce, reuse, recycle options have been exhausted:
If there is about 1/2 an inch of paint left in the bottom of the container, remove the lid and let stand to dry in an area away from kids and pets. Once the paint in the can is totally dry, recycle the metal or plastic container, or if that isn’t possible, throw the can out in the garbage with the lid off. In our region of British Columbia, it is illegal to throw away any paint either down the drain or into landfills. It must be taken to a regional hazardous waste disposal organization. If there is more than 1/2 an inch in your can, the NPCA recommends finding a shallow container, filling it with shredded newspaper or kitty litter, and pouring the paint into this abosorbant container. Once it is dry, it can be thrown out (unless you live in my area – be sure to check the laws governing paint disposal in your area). Your brushes and roller should be washed in the sink totally away from any storm drains. I am a little confused about this rule; because it isn’t O.K. to dispose of wet paint down the drain or toilet, and yet brushes and rollers are filled with wet paint, and that waste water goes down the drain. I guess if it is in small enough amounts diluted with lots of water, it ok.
Alkyd or Oil based paints are much more difficult to deal with. Look online, or phone your local municipality to find out the specific rules in your area, but generally, oil based paints must be dealt with by experienced paint disposal people in centrally located stations in your particular region. For example, in BC, we have a Paint and Product Care program that has used paint drop off depots in 100 different locations across the province. In fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase oil paints for any purpose because latex technology is getting better and better; resulting in comparable products.
Many companies are making a low VOC/no VOC product alternatives. General Paint (Canadian company) has a product called Z-Coat; an interior latex paint that releases no VOC’s (Volitile Organic Compounds). Cloverdale Paints has an extensive line of low VOC paints. Sherwin Williams has their Harmony line of paints that have zero VOC’s. Pratt and Lambert have their Red Seal line that they advertise as a “green” product.
It is clear from the research about what you CANNOT do with leftover paint:
Do not pour it down the drain or toilet – it will end up polluting groundwater and/or ocean water.
Do not throw out the can with wet paint sealed inside. Firstly, alkyd/oil paints are flammable and who knows what delightful mixture your paint will be mixed with in the neighborhood garbage truck. Garbage men have enough to deal with without your paint cans causing fires in the back of the truck. Secondly, due to outgassing of wet paint, pressure builds up in the can; this can also lead to an explosion.
Do not throw out wet rollers and brushes for they can contaminate soil and ground water.
Be sure to check with your local laws as to proper disposal techniques, and remember, paint and related products are not the only ones with disposal restrictions. Have a look at some of your cleaning products: bleach, disinfectants, drain opener, spot and stain remover and toilet bowl cleanser all may require special waste precautions.
Check out Carnival of the Green for this article and others on clean living.