How to Get Rid of Your Old Cans of Paint

Paint recycling and disposal depend on the type of paint. Some paints, like water-based latex, are okay to go in the regular garbage as long as they’re dried out, but this varies by state. Other types, like oil-based paints, are hazardous materials – you need to recycle or locate a hazardous material drop-off location.

Paint can disposal

How to Recycle Paint

Latex paints, the most common type for interior painting, are recyclable. These paints have a water base, and recycling centers can reblend them, creating new paint. Oil-based paints, common for exterior and craft projects, aren’t recyclable. 

Here’s how the paint recycling process works:

  • The recycling center sorts the paint by quality
  • High-quality latex paint is then sorted by color
  • The recycling center filters and reprocesses the paint and packages it for resale

Poor quality paint isn’t recyclable. To ensure your latex paint is in good enough condition for recycling, secure the lid so the paint doesn’t dry out.

There are ten states with Paint Stewardship laws to reduce paint waste. These states include Colorado, Connecticut, California, Washington D.C., Vermont, Minnesota, Maine, New York, Washington, and Rhode Island. You can locate paint recycling drop-off locations for these states here.

If you don’t live in a state with paint stewardship laws, you can still locate a recycling center. Check your state’s EPA page for a directory or search for a recycling transfer station.

Where to Donate Paint

When stored airtight, most paints last up to ten years and are donatable.

Start by offering leftover paint to friends or family. If there are no takers, check with your local Habitat for Humanity Restore. While guidelines vary by location, many ReStores accept latex paint. You can also donate to building ReUse centers, list it on FreeCycle, or donate to local theater groups.

How to Dispose of Latex Paint

In many states, you can dispose of latex paint in your regular garbage. Search for your state’s EPA website or contact your trash pick-up company for confirmation.

Before disposing of latex paint, it needs to be dry. If only a small amount of paint is in the can, leave the lid off until it dries out. Then, add it to your regular garbage. If there’s a large amount of paint in the can, add a paint hardener, cat litter, or sawdust to it. Once hardened, leave it with your trash.

If you live in a state that prohibits latex paint from entering the landfill, bring it to a hazardous waste facility.

How to Dispose of Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint is a hazardous material. It’s non-recyclable, and you can’t put it with your regular garbage. Instead, you’ll need to locate a hazardous waste facility. You can also search your local government’s website for hazardous waste collection events. During these events run by the city or county, you may be able to drop off all old paint.

How to Dispose of Old Spray Paint Cans

Depending on your location, you may be able to recycle empty spray paint cans. Reference your local recycling program’s website for specifics. You can also consult your state’s EPA website for aerosol can recycling programs. 

If the empty cans are non-recyclable, bring them to a hazardous waste facility.

Can You Recycle Empty Paint Cans?

Most paint cans are tin-coated steel, which is recyclable. If the can is empty and free of paint residue, cash it in at a metal recycling center. Depending on your city, you may be able to leave empty paint cans (minus the lid) in your recycling bin.

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Written by Murat

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