Paint can add a fresh coat of color to walls, cars, buildings and furniture or make for fun projects. Although paint is common in homes and businesses, it’s important to remember that it contains harsh chemicals and hazardous materials. You should know where you can dispose of paint and how to do it to avoid risking your health or the environment.
Most paints are water- or oil-based and have distinct characteristics, with the common similarity of being toxic. Due to the chemicals in these products, paint and related materials can be flammable or reactive, making it vital that you know how and where to dispose of them.
The Importance of Disposing Paint Properly
Some types of paint can be highly flammable, reactive or toxic. Flammable and toxic materials in paint can cause consequences such as fires or cause headaches, dizziness, memory loss and other ailments. Knowing how to dispose of paint and chemicals will help keep you and the environment safe. You should never pour paint down the drain or throw it in the trash unless it’s completely dry.
You should always determine whether your paint is hazardous before disposing of it. You should not throw away paint that’s still wet because those materials may end up in a landfill where lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxic materials could seep into groundwater or soil. Determine if paint is hazardous by examining the label or by requesting a Material Safety Data Sheet.
Also know that state department regulations across the U.S. differ. It’s essential that you know how to dispose of paint in your state, when you can do it on your own and when you need to contact a paint collection facility.
To reduce waste, you should only purchase the paint you need. If you purchase too much, you can return unopened cans to your vendor or donate them to a business or someone else who may want them for future projects.
Disposing of Industrial and Residential Paint
Industrial and residential paint often have different components, which means you should dispose of them differently.
How to Dispose of Industrial Paint
Businesses use paint to brighten appliances, cars, electronics and other products for mass production, leading to mass paint waste. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) classifies paint as a hazardous material, requiring proper disposal.
Industrial paint disposal methods include:
- Tank cleaning: Businesses that hold paint in tanks must regularly clean these tanks to ensure employee safety. Because these businesses have so much waste, professionals must handle the disposal process.
- Waste drum disposal: Waste paint drums can be metal or high-quality plastic and must be durable, leak-proof and sealable. These drums have a universal design that makes them easily movable, and businesses can use the same drum until it’s full, making them economical.
- Hydro jetting: This removal method is ideal for lead-based paints and involves a high-pressure water jet clearing out lines, pipes and other surfaces. The water removes paint as well as sludge, silt, grease and other debris, and cleaning professionals collect the water for disposal.
- Facility shutdown: Some machines that hold paint cannot be cleaned unless the business shuts them down. Painting ovens, spray booths and automated mixing vats can cause a company shutdown while professionals clean them. During a shutdown, professionals will remove paint, vacuum or do foundry sand removal to keep the business up and running and save them costs in the long run.
How to Dispose of Residential Paint
Residential paint colors walls, repairs homes and brightens home projects or crafts. Although most homeowners will require less paint than businesses, they often still produce a lot of waste. Homeowners do not need the intense disposal processes that companies do, but they still must take care to remove excess paint properly.
Residential paint disposal methods include:
- Professional disposal: Homeowners can call a professional or go to a curbside pickup location. After a professional takes the excess paint, they will treat the material in a processing facility or recycling center. Once they treat the material, it can go to a landfill or an incinerator.
- Donating: If you find that you bought more paint than you needed, you can offer to give the excess to friends or family who may want to do home projects in the near future. Local community theaters, art clubs or other groups could also use leftover paint to create set designs, color shelters or contribute to a town mural. Additionally, if the paint is unopened, you could return it to your vendor and receive your money back.
- Drying: If you have a small amount of leftover paint, brush it onto materials like newspaper and cardboard to dry. You can then dispose of these painted materials in the trash. You could also leave almost empty cans open in a well-ventilated area so the paint dries.
- Reusing: Although technically not a disposal method, homeowners can choose to keep their excess paint for future projects. If you’re going to move or are thinking about repainting other areas of your home, you should keep your paint and try to use it in those spots rather than buying more.
Disposing Latex and Oil-Based Paint
Different states have varying regulations about how to dispose of latex paint. While some permit you to throw away the paint after it has dried, others require you to contact a paint collection facility.
In areas where you can throw away latex paint with other waste, you need to allow it to dry beforehand completely. You can spread latex paint out on newspapers, cat litter or other absorbent material and allow it to fully dry. After, you can put the dried paint in your garbage can and take the trash out on your regular schedule. If possible, recycle the dry, empty paint can to a recycling program.
Oil-based paint is hazardous in every state because it releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A household hazardous waste collection facility should collect any leftover oil-based paint, varnish or stains you’ve used on your walls or furniture. If you’re having trouble finding a program near you, you can contact your local hazardous waste agency.
Disposing Paint-Related Materials
Regardless of your need for paint, you likely need other materials for your project, including paint thinners, aerosol cans, turpentine or mineral spirits. You can reuse most of these paint-related materials.
- Paint thinner: To save this product for further use, you should let solid particles settle in a closed glass container with a sealable lid, pour the liquid into another container and store it to use for later. Dispose of the sediment as you would other hazardous materials with a professional.
- Spray paint: To get rid of aerosol cans, you should try to use all of the product. You want the can to be empty so it doesn’t produce any pressurized air when you push down the nozzle. After you empty them on newspaper or cardboard, you can toss the cans in the trash. You should never puncture holes in these cans, and if there is still product left, you should treat it as hazardous waste and follow regulations to dispose of it.
- Brushes and rollers: If you’re using inexpensive paint tools, you can let them dry and toss them out with regular trash. If you’ll reuse brushes, avoid rinsing them in the sink, as sending even a small amount of paint down the drain can lead to blockages and contamination. Instead, scrape excess paint back into the can or brush it onto newspaper. Clean tools in a bucket, let the water evaporate and the paint harden then throw it away.
Learn How to Dispose of Paint With Hazmat School
Obtaining a hazmat certification for your business is simple with Hazmat School’s fully online courses available 24/7 and in-person courses. We offer a wide range of certification courses and have students from multiple industries, including engineering, aerospace, shipping, manufacturing and construction.
Our hazardous waste courses are designed to keep you up to date and following current regulations. After obtaining your certificate, we will notify you via email when refresher courses are due, so you can always stay on top of changes in regulations and ensure your practice methods are safe for you, your company and the environment.
Contact Hazmat School for more information about our training courses.