How to Recycle Your Old Paint


Jul. 27 2021, Published 4:56 p.m. ET

Recycle old paint

Over time, old cans of paint can become something of a burden. You add new colors to match your new furniture, or cover up yellowed coats with a clean and brilliant white, and all the while, the cans of leftover paint start to pile up in your garage, basement, or garden shed.

Many homeowners find themselves wondering what to do with these accumulated colors, heedless of the fact that you can actually recycle them. So if you want to learn the best ways to recycle old paint, keep reading.

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Old paint
Source: Getty Images

How to dispose of paint safely

House paint usually comes in two different varieties: water-based (latex) and oil-based. Each one of these involves different disposal methods. For oil-based paints, your options are fairly limited. According to Lowe's, oil-based paints are considered hazardous materials, so the only thing you can do with them is to bring them to a hazardous waste disposal site.

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Latex or water-based paint offers a few more options, If you just want to throw it away and not recycle it — though you should really recycle it— Lowe's recommends adding it to an equal amount of kitty litter, tying it up in a plastic trash bag or lined box, and throwing it in the trash. If there isn’t much paint left in the can, just open it up and let it dry out in the open air before throwing it away.

How to recycle old paint

Recycling is the better option, however, and it’s very easy to do. If you have lots of still usable paint, you might want to consider donating it first. Earth911's recommendation is to contact local schools, churches, community theaters, or charitable organizations to see if they have a need for it. If the paint is not usable, if it’s dried up or no one wants it, you’ll have to contact your local sanitation department.

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Many municipalities will allow for curbside pickup of dried-out paint cans, but you’ll have to check with sanitation and/or recycling departments in your area to find out if yours is one of them. Alternatively, some municipalities have drop-off days where residents can come in person to drop off paint cans, aerosol cans, and other hazardous or semi-hazardous materials for recycling or disposal.

Bright colors of paint
Source: Getty Images
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How to recycle spray paint

According to Krylon, aerosol cans of spray paint can be recycled only if the cans are completely empty. To recycle them, Krylon suggests first removing the plastic cap and placing it with plastic recycling. When it comes to the steel can, however, you’ll still have to see if your municipality accepts empty aerosol cans before placing them with your recycled metals. Otherwise, you might need to wait for a drop-off event.

How to find a paint recycling location near you

There are companies out there who take it upon themselves to collect and recycle old paint, and PaintCare is one of them. PaintCare has drop-off locations in 10 states including Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, and Washington D.C.

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To recycle through PaintCare, simply call ahead to find out if they accept your type of paint and to confirm business hours at your closest location. Note that the company does not accept aerosol-based paint, leaking, damaged, unlabeled, or empty containers.

Spray paint cans
Source: Getty Images

If you’re still unsure where to bring your old paint cans for recycling, or you don’t wish to use a service like PaintCare, check out Earth911’s handy recycling locator. It’s easy to use and can help you find recycling centers in your area for just about any recyclable product.

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