Each year, Americans buy millions of gallons of paint to protect and beautify their homes and businesses, but some of that paint goes unused. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 10 percent of all architectural paint purchased each year goes unused — up to 80 million gallons. That’s enough paint to fill 121 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Over the years, this leftover paint piles up in basements, garages, and other storage spaces. Sadly, some of this paint will never be used and will end up in a landfill.
But there’s a better way to manage leftover house paint, stain, and varnish that helps the environment, saves local governments money, and creates green jobs!
U.S. paint manufacturers formed a non-profit organization, PaintCare, that works with local paint stores and government officials to set up convenient, easy-to-use paint recycling locations — most are paint and hardware stores that volunteer to take back leftover paint, while others are reuse stores (like Habitat for Humanity), household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities, recycling centers, and landfills. There are drop-off locations all over the state of Oregon, as well as California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
When you take your leftover paint to a PaintCare drop-off location, it is boxed up and taken to a facility where it is sorted by quality and whether it can be reblended back into recycled-content paint, burned as fuel, biodegraded, or used for another beneficial purpose. In Oregon, more than half of latex paint is made into new paint, and nearly all of the oil-based paint is used as fuel. PaintCare even sets aside about 7 percent of latex paint and 6 percent of oil-based paint for reuse in Oregon — it is distributed at government paint reuse programs or at reuse stores. Very little paint is disposed of in landfills — only when the paint is dried out or otherwise cannot be repurposed.
Did you know that PaintCare has processed nearly 27 million gallons (270 million pounds) of leftover paint in eight states and the District of Columbia since 2010, including more than 5 million gallons in Oregon alone? Nearly all of this paint has been reclaimed for recycling, reuse, or other purposes. The amount of paint collected is anticipated to grow as awareness of paint recycling spreads and households and businesses take advantage of convenient locations to drop off their leftover paint.
PaintCare also helps save government organizations the cost of managing leftover paint. PaintCare works with HHW facilities, transfer stations, and other government collection programs by covering their costs for transporting, recycling, and properly disposing of leftover paint they collect from the public or generate in their operations. This can help free up resources for other services in a community.
To make the program widely accessible, PaintCare relies upon the service of a variety of workers who contribute to all aspects of paint recycling — including collecting, transporting, and processing millions of gallons of paint.
The best part of this paint recycling program is that it is easy to use. You just take your leftover paint to a drop-off location in your community. Nearly all Oregonians—98%—live within 15 miles of a permanent location where they can drop off unwanted paint. Most of these locations are open during regular business hours, several days a week, all year round. You can find locations by entering your address or zip code in a site locator tool available at paintcare.org or by calling PaintCare at (855) 724-6809.
You make PaintCare possible. Each time you buy a gallon of house paint, 95 cents of the cost goes towards making this program a reality. This small stewardship fee helps conserve a valuable resource and helps make it possible for your old paint to be part of someone else’s new painting project. It really makes a difference!