By KIM BEELER  |  Moonshine Ink

Summer is the time of year when we gather with friends and family, and part of the tradition of spring and summertime is getting our homes ready for company. Often that includes painting and staining projects. 

A lot of homeowners end up collecting old or unused paint and stain over the years and are unclear about what to do with it, but most of us do know that we shouldn’t throw it away in our trash cans. When stored properly, extra paint can last for years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study in April 2007 estimating that about 10 percent of the house paint purchased in the United States each year — about 65 to 69 million gallons — is discarded. Leftover and unusable paint waste causes pollution when disposed of improperly, the EPA warns. Before you decide how to get rid of old paint, you’ll need to determine what kind of paint it is. There are two types of paint: oil-based and latex. Regulations on disposal of each type of paint vary by location.

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If it can no longer be used or is unwanted, there are some environmentally-responsible ways to dispose of paint. In some areas, latex paint can be thrown out with the trash if it is completely dried. Keep in mind that some household waste haulers may still not pick up latex paint, so check with your local waste disposal service provider on rules and regulations applicable to your area.

Oil-based paints, as well as paint thinners and other paint solvents, are considered hazardous household waste (HHW) and are typically disposed of at HHW facilities. While many communities across the country will hold annual or semi-annual HHW collection days to make paint disposal easy for residents, a program called PaintCare allows residents in certain states (including California) to conveniently dispose of house paint, primers, stains, sealers, and clear coatings year-round. The program ensures no charge for dropping off paint, and an online site locator allows you to quickly find their closest drop-off location.

PaintCare manages the leftover paint it receives according to a policy of “highest, best use.” It is the goal of the paint stewardship program to recycle as much as possible. Most of the oil-based paint is taken to a cement plant where it is blended into a fuel and burned to recover the energy value. Latex paint that is not rusty, molding, or spoiled is sent to recycling companies and reprocessed into new paint. Some paint that the nonprofit receives is nearly new and in excellent condition and is often given to charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

~ Kim Beeler is the owner of Beeler Marketing, and is the public relations representative for PaintCare.

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