Credit to the PaintCare website

Earth Day Action Item: Getting Rid of Unwanted Paint

This coming Earth Day is a perfect time to declutter a basement, crawl space, or shed, to get rid of unwanted paint collecting dust. It’s important to understand how to recycle paint properly and now there’s a way that it can be done for free.

PaintCare, a non-profit organization, makes it easy for Colorado residents to do just that, and for free. The organization turns old paint into recycled-content paint and wherever possible, is used as fuel, made into other products, or dried out and properly disposed.

Improper Disposal of Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste has enormous impacts on the environment.

“The EPA recently released data that just one gallon of latex paint has the potential to pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water,” said Emily Kaps, Environment Protection Specialist at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. “When paint is poured down the drain or enters a landfill, the harsh additives in the chemicals can disrupt ecosystems and the microbes used in water treatment facilities.”

She also said that oil-based paints are even more impactful on the environment. “The chemicals in oil-based paints are more persistent in the environment and will last longer in ecosystems.”

Improper disposal of any type of hazardous waste can result in water, soil, and air contamination. Short-term effects include pollution in waterways that make streams, rivers, and lakes unsafe to use for drinking. Not only does it affect plants and animals, but also human health. Because hazardous waste projects contain chemicals that cannot be broken down, when improperly disposed, they have the potential to cause reactions and mutations that can harm the human population and the planet as a whole.

Colorado Leads the Way in Proper Hazardous Waste Disposal

In Colorado, it’s more convenient than ever to recycle paint. PaintCare has 170 drop-off sites throughout the state. Most are paint retailers (paint, hardware, home improvement stores, and hazardous waste facilities) that have volunteered to take back paint, and they are available to any household and business in Colorado. They accept paint year round.

Household hazardous waste programs and facilities offer “round-up events” run by local county or city government agencies, often in partnership with the local garbage and recycling company or transfer station. In addition to accepting paint, these programs usually accept other non-paint hazardous wastes such as pesticides and solvents. Most of these government programs limit participation to households in certain cities or towns. Businesses can make appointments during special hours, and are usually charged fees. However, businesses that use these government programs are allowed to drop off paint for no charge or only a small administrative fee, if the agency is a PaintCare partner.

Some Restrictions

There are limits on how much paint can be dropped off per visit. And, certain businesses – those producing more than 220 pounds (about 20-30 gallons) of hazardous waste per month – can only drop off latex paint, not oil-based paint. It’s important to call the site ahead of time to confirm their hours and ensure they have space to accept the amount of paint you want to recycle.

PaintCare sites accept house paint, primers, stains, sealers, and clear coatings, such as shellac and varnish, but does not accept aerosols (spray cans), solvents, and products intended for industrial or non-architectural use.

“The products we accept are referred to as PaintCare Products or architectural paint, and they must be in containers no larger than five gallons in size,” said Kevin Lynch, Colorado Program Manager at PaintCare. “Paint must be in its original container with the original printed label and a secured lid. We cannot accept open or leaking cans.”

There is no charge for dropping off paint at a PaintCare drop-off site. PaintCare is funded by the “PaintCare Fee” which is added to the purchase price of paint sold in the state. These fees are paid to PaintCare by paint manufacturers, then passed down to retailers and their customers.

“When you buy paint, you may see a line item on your receipt or invoice for each container,” added Lynch. “The fee is not a deposit – you don’t get it back when you drop off paint, which is a common misunderstanding. These fees fund all aspects of the paint stewardship program.”

Fees pay for paint collection, transportation, recycling, public outreach, and program administration. PaintCare sites even accept paint that is 30 years old. Fees are based on container size as follows:

Container SizeFee
Half pint or smaller$0.00
Larger than half pint and smaller than 1 gallon$0.35
1 Gallon$0.75
Larger than 1 gallon up to 5 gallons$1.60

For more information, visit PaintCare.

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