May 25, 2017

Recycling in Old Lyme: Dealing With Left-Over Paint

paint_cansLymeLine.com is pleased to be publishing a series of articles written by Old Lyme’s Solid Waste & Recycling Committee that lay out best recycling practices.  To date, the committee’s articles have covered the town’s current curbside program, and the safe disposal of prescription and over-the counter medications in previous articles. This article covers paint recycling.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 10 percent of all paint purchased in the United States is left-over – around 64 million gallons annually. This left-over and unused paint can cause pollution when disposed of improperly and, in the past, was costly for municipalities to manage. 

So, Connecticut enacted a paint stewardship law in 2011, which required that paint manufacturers assume the costs of managing unwanted latex and oil-based paints, including collection, recycling, and/or disposal of unwanted paint products. Connecticut was the third state in the country to pass paint legislation, following Oregon and California.

As a result of the paint stewardship law, a non-profit program was rolled out in 2012 by the American Coatings Association, which is a trade group of paint manufacturers. The program is funded by a fee paid by the consumer at the time of purchase.

“PaintCare” has resulted in a network of drop-off locations for that left-over paint (now 142 sites in the state.) Locations near Old Lyme include Sherwin Williams in Old Saybrook, True Value Hardware in East Lyme, and Rings End Lumber in Niantic. PaintCare now operates in the nine states that have enacted paint stewardship laws. There is no charge at the drop-off site. As noted, the program is wholly funded by fees assessed at the point of sale.

PaintCare drop-off sites accept latex and oil-based house paints, primers, stains, sealers, and clear coatings like shellac and varnish. All of these must be in the original container (no larger than five gallons) with the original printed label and a secured lid (i.e., no open or leaking containers.)  They do not accept aerosols, paint thinners, mineral spirits, and solvents.

You should review the PaintCare website (http://www.paintcare.org) before loading your trunk with your left-over paint.  The site has a complete list of accepted and non-accepted paint products and any drop-off limits.

What happens to the excess paint after drop-off?  PaintCare’s haulers move the paint from the drop-off sites to their facility for sorting. Their goal is to then recycle as much as possible according to a policy of “highest, best use”.

Most of the oil-based paint is taken to a plant where it is processed into a fuel and then burned to recover the energy value.

Clean latex paint (i.e., not rusty, dirty, molding or spoiled) is sent to recycling facilities and reprocessed into “new” paint; most latex paint that doesn’t contain mercury or foreign contaminants can be processed into recycled-content paint.

There are two types of recycled paint: re-blended and re-processed. Re-blended paint contains a much higher percentage of recycled paint than re-processed paint (which mixes old paint with new paint and other new materials).

Paint that is nearly new and in good condition is given to charitable organizations for re-sale. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores also accept clean surplus paints.

According to the PaintCare 2014 Annual Report, 240,798 gallons of used paint were collected in the first year of the program; 81 percent of the latex paint was recycled into recycled-content paint, 4 percent ended as a landfill cover product, 6 percent was fuel-blended, and 9 percent was unrecyclable and sent to landfill as solids. All of the oil-based paint was used for fuel.

Our next article covers the recycling of mattresses.

If you have questions or comments related to this article or recycling in general, contact Leslie O’Connor at alete1@sbcglobal.net or Tom Gotowka at TDGotowka@aol.com.

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