I’m a painter, whether it’s on walls, furniture, or canvas, just give me a brush and a can of paint. This job title has turned me into the left over paint can dumping ground for all of my family and friends. I find ways to use up a little bit here and there, and a can or two is always helpful to have on hand. Recently the pile in the basement has felt like it’s gotten a bit out of hand so I decided to weed out the really old and the overstock of certain colors.
Recycling Doesn’t Equal Trashing
My only thought was to recycle them, and I saw that a local hardware chain in my area was advertising about recycling paint. Car trunk loaded, I made a weekend errand run to drop them off. Apparently their definition of recycling was to throw it in the trash. All they were going to do was dry out the paint and throw the can in the trash. Since all the cans were already in my car I decided to stop by a different paint/hardware store to see if they would recycle. They would indeed recycle the paint, and they told me I could even do it at home. All I had to do was take a cardboard box, line it with plastic and poor out a thin layer of paint into the box. Once that layer had dried I could poor out another thin layer and repeat they drying process until all the paint was dry and then simply throw it in the trash. Not only would I be trashing the paint and can, but now cardboard and plastic too. That doesn’t sound like the definition of recycling at all to me.
Recycling Paint Options
Now I know why everyone keeps dumping all their paint on me. Nobody knows a locally easy way to recycle paint. I decided to do a little bit of research, and I decided I should share my new found knowledge.
The best option (if the paint is in good condition) is to try donating it to a nonprofit, someone like a Habitat for Humanity, or a community theatre/ high school drama departments for their set design department. There are some places that will blend mix-match paint into a large, usually grayish batch then resale it. These places aren’t nationwide, but if you’re lucky there may be one in your neighborhood. Enter your zip code to see if a drop-off location is near you.
Latex and water-based paints can be easily recycled into concrete, cement and other additives so it’s sad that there isn’t more of a readily available solution. If you’ve been holding onto paint for too long and it’s no longer viable, remember that the can it comes in can always be recycled, so try to remove the wasted paint and at least recycle the can. Many will recommend adding kitty litter to the paint to help dry it out faster, but remember that by doing so you are creating even more waste. If you leave the lid open and stir every couple of days the paint will dry out almost as fast.
The moral of this story is the next time you have extra paint when you’re done painting, just keep painting. The best place for left over paint is on the wall where is will blend in with all of the other paint. You probably see it as extra work, or that you might want to save it for touch up paint down the road. But you’ll never need more than a small tube of touchup paint, and if you use it all you won’t have to worry about the left-over paint down the road.
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