What to do with leftover paint in Colorado

What to do with leftover paint in Colorado


Do you have leftover paint sitting at home? Most of us do. In fact the EPA estimates roughly 64 million gallons of leftover paint is sent to landfills each year — that’s a lot of paint. Improper disposal of all this paint can have serious consequences for the environment. For instance if you pour latex paint down the drain it can pollute up to 250,000 gallons of water, harm fish and wildlife and even disrupt microbes used in water treatment operations. Properly disposing of paint when you no longer need it can prevent these environmental concerns. So how do you properly dispose of paint? You may have heard there’s a statewide ban on liquids in landfills so you have to solidify paint before you can dispose of it. This takes a lot of time, is quite a hassle and still doesn’t get the harmful chemicals in paint out of our landfills. To solve this problem the state of Colorado established a program for managing leftover latex and oil-based paints which went into effect July of 2015. PaintCare, a nonprofit organization, is in charge of this end-of-life management for unwanted paint. PaintCare currently operates in Colorado and eight other states. A small fee placed on new paint sales by retailers funds PaintCare and state oversight. PaintCare collects and processes paint in accordance with the hierarchy to disposal. This hierarchy ranks end-of-life management options for unused paint from the most preferred to least preferred. As you can see, source reduction or decreasing the amount of paint in production is the most preferred. PaintCare encourages source reduction through ad campaigns encouraging consumers to buy the right amount of paint to begin with. Additionally, PaintCare helps foster the reuse of paint, the next best option in the hierarchy, through supporting local drop and swap programs. Recycling is the third preferred method followed by disposal. Roughly 94% of Colorado residents live within 15 miles of a paintcare drop-off site. At these sites residents can return unused latex and oil-based paints as well as stains, primers, sealers and clear coatings. PaintCare does not accept aerosols, solvents and products intended for industrial or non architectural use. While all paint retailers must assess the fee on new paint sales, retailers are not required to participate in Paint Care as a drop-off location. Be sure to use the site locator tool on PaintCare’s website before dropping off your unwanted paint. Once you’re at the nearest location paint can be dropped off in accordance with store procedures. It only takes a minute or two and drop-off locations generally accept paint during business hours. For small businesses, or those with a lot of paint, PaintCare can arrange for a large volume pick up from a business or residence. This one-time service is free of charge. After you drop off your paint at a participating collection facility professional haulers pick up the paint. It is then taken to sorting facilities where paint is separated as either latex or oil-based. The oil-based paint is shipped away and most frequently reused as fuel in cement kilns. Latex paint, suitable for recycling, is taken to a paint recycler like this one in Englewood called Green Sheen. At Green Sheen, and other businesses like it, unused but still high quality latex paint is sorted based on general color. Paints of similar color are combined in large bins. Once a bin is full an antifungal agent is added to the paint, re-blended then placed into new cans as recycled content paint. Green Sheen paint is then sold internationally. If you have aerosol cans, solvents, thinners and other unused products that PaintCare does not accept you can bring them to your local household hazardous waste collection facility. Most counties either have a facility or offer a collection service for household hazardous waste. Contact your local health department for more information. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also has a customer technical assistance line for hazardous and solid wastes. The line is staffed five days a week so please call or email with any questions. For additional information on the program or to learn how to dispose of other products not covered under PaintCare please contact Emily Wilson at 303-692-3343 or email emily.wilson@state.co.us.

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