How To Dispose Of Paint

As with most home improvement projects, it is likely that you will have some leftover painting supplies when you are done painting. However, you will soon discover that landfills will not accept paint. It is considered hazardous waste and not something that they want to risk putting in the landfill where it might leach into the water supply.

Since you are reading this article, you clearly want to get rid of your paint in an economical manner that is also safe for the environment.

Why Paint is Harmful to the Environment

There are a lot of chemically-made compounds that go into paint. The resins and binders are used to create the color for the paint. And then, the solvent carries that to the surface and provides the evaporation or drying mechanism.

The World Health Organization has made some correlations between the risk of cancer and the amount of exposure you have to paint.

There is an estimated 20-40% increase in your risk of cancer if you spend your life around the paint. Lung cancer is an unusually high risk. Danish researchers are also drawing a connection between neurological conditions and paint exposure.

When the paint is drying, it is releasing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs into the air. These react with the oxygen in the air to produce ozone, which has been implicated in causing the greenhouse effect of global warming.

While lead has been removed from paint since 1978, titanium dioxide can cause some of the most significant harm to the environment. These contaminants are costly to remove and can lead to hefty EPA fines if they make their way into the landfill’s leach water. Accordingly, most landfills have strict policies on how to dispose of paint.

Paint is one of those things that is easy to buy. You can do a little comparison shopping online or locally, and then get it at a local hardware store.

How To Safely Dispose Of Paint

ToolTally sells paint supplies such as paint sprayers and rollers. They suggest drying the paint out and then throwing it away like normal trash. So the first method for paint disposal is to leave the cans and buckets open and let them evaporate until they are dry.

This takes a little longer, but it is the cheapest method. You have to plan ahead and find a safe space where you can set them to air out. Once the paint is thoroughly dry, most landfills will accept them as they would any other waste.

One variation of this idea is to buy a cheap tarp or large piece of plastic. Spread that out in the sun and then dump the paint out on it. By spreading the paint out, you are able to get it to dry faster. When you are finished, wad up the tarp and throw the entire thing away.

The other idea that can speed up this process is to use some paint drying compound. There are special compounds made that you can mix directly into the paint, but two of the cheapest are quick-drying cement powder and cat litter.

Either of these options works wonders for thickening the paint and preparing it for disposal. Just dump it in and mix it up. In a matter of minutes, the paint is a sticky goo that is mostly dry, and within an hour or two, it is ready for the landfill. A lot of contractors like this method as it lets them dump their cans more quickly and get on to the next job.

Storing Paint

Storing and reusing paint is another excellent way to protect the environment. Often you will want to use that paint for other projects. Additionally, you might decide to include it with the house for the next homeowners in case they want to touch anything up. The paint will store for ten years, so it makes sense to hang onto it for as long as you need to.

When you store the paint, you want to make sure that it will stay fresh for the next time you need it. There are a few problems with leaving the paint in the cans. The first problem is that there is a lot of air in the can. This can cause a film to form on the top of the paint. Additionally, these cans take up a lot of room and are quite unsightly. Furthermore, if they get knocked over, the lids are not very secure and can come off and make a huge mess.

Finally, the inside of these paint cans will break down in the solvent-rich environment of paint. This can lead to oxidation and rust that then gets into your paint and taints it.

It is recommended to get airtight plastic or glass jars in which to store your paint. Use a funnel to transfer the paint over, and then label the jar with an explanation of what the paint is, where it was purchased, any relevant color codes, and with what piece of furniture or room that it goes. Including the date is a good idea as well in case you need to get rid of it down the road.

If you ever need to get rid of the paint down the road, you can mix in some concrete cement and dispose of it as described above.

Can You Donate Paint To Habitat For Humanity ReStore?

Each local ReStore will set the rules on what they will take. However, it isn’t common to find one that will accept used paint.

Can You Donate Paint To Goodwill Stores?

If you are Marie Kondo-ing your garage and want to donate your paint to Goodwill, you are out of luck. They do not accept paint as a donation as they consider it a hazardous material.

Can you Recycle Paint at Lowes, Home Depot, or Sherwin Williams?

These stores do not accept paint as it is considered a hazardous waste, and they don’t want to mess with that. If you have paint that you need to get rid of, search for a hazardous waste disposal facility or check with your landfill to see if they will accept paint after you treat it with one of our methods above.

Can Paint Be Put In Recycle Bins?

No. Most cities will remove the paint cans from the recycle bins and leave them with you before taking your other recyclables. When in doubt, check with your local laws to make sure you are abiding by their instructions and regulations.

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA, and an international consultant, advisor, ecopreneur and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biomass energy, biogas, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. He has participated in numerous conferences and workshops as chairman, session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of EcoMENA, and is a professional environmental writer with more than 300 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability in different parts of the world. Salman Zafar can be reached at or

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