What Can I Do With Old Paint?

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What Can I Do With Old Paint?

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Paint is a common household product.  Leftover paint can become a household hazardous waste. Paint contains chemicals, such as solvents and metals, that can damage the environment -- especially water supplies -- and endanger human health if not disposed of properly.

DO NOT . . .

  • Pour paint down the drain. Many chemicals in paint may not be treated by sewage treatment plants or septic systems. The untreated chemicals may be discharged to rivers and streams and contaminate these waters. Fish, wildlife, plants, and humans can be adversely affected.
  • Throw paint in the trash when it's in liquid form! Eventually, most household trash is compacted, releasing paint from the can, causing problems in garbage trucks, the Resource Recovery Plant, and landfills. In the plant, paint will be tracked over the tipping floor and and equipment. In the landfill, it can seep down through the garbage, mixing with rainwater and other liquids forming a leachate which may eventually contaminate groundwater, and groundwater is Iowa's major source of drinking water!

YOU CAN . . .

  • Make environmentally responsible choices; choose water-based (latex) paints instead of oil-based whenever possible.
  • Choose only non-aerosol paints instead of spray paints.
  • Buy only the amount of paint you need for a project.
  • Give unused paint to someone else who can use it (a neighbor, community theater group, low-income agency, parks systems, schools, etc.).

TO SAFELY DISPOSE OF WATER-BASED PAINT . . .

Completely dried and hardened paint can be put in the trash. If it's not dry, pour some clay, kitty litter, floor dry, or sawdust into the paint and stir until it's stiff like a putty or cookie dough; leave the lid off so workers will know the paint is dry, and they will pick it up for you with the rest of your trash.

Larger quantities can be poured in layers about 1/2 inch thick in a cardboard box lined with plastic, newspaper, or kitty litter; repeat layers as necessary.

For paint that has separated and cannot be mixed, pour off clear liquids into a cardboard box lined with plastic and mix with an equal amount of absorbent material, such as kitty litter; once the liquid is absorbed, the whole box can go out with the trash.

TO DISPOSE OF OIL-BASED PAINT OR LEAD PAINT, CONTACT THE RESOURCE RECOVERY PLANT FOR DISPOSAL ASSISTANCE.