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Paint recycling system kicks off in California

October 18, 2012|By Susan Carpenter
  • Environmental workers sort cans of paint for recycling at a hazardous waste disposal site operated by the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation.
Environmental workers sort cans of paint for recycling at a hazardous waste… (Brian van der Brug )

Anyone who's ever lived anywhere probably has done it: bought a can of paint that turned out to be the wrong color and, out of sheer laziness or confusion about what to do, left it sitting in the garage for years. Under the new California Paint Stewardship Program beginning Oct. 19, Californians can bring unused cans of paint to designated retailers and other drop-off sites that have partnered with the organization to recycle them.

Customers will also be charged a fee when buying paints to cover some costs of the program.

Leftover paint is considered a household hazardous material that is illegal to throw in the trash. In fact, roughly 50% of what is recycled through the state's 120 hazardous waste facilities is architectural paint, according to Marjaneh Zarrehparvar, executive director of PaintCare, the nonprofit organization established by the American Coatings Assn. to implement paint stewardship laws.

AB 1343 is the law that established the California Paint Stewardship Program. The law that goes into effect this week actually was passed more than two years ago. It required paint manufacturers to develop a take-back system for leftover paint from residential and commercial consumers.

California is the second state to mandate such a system. In 2009 Oregon passed a similar law for a four-year pilot program. Under the new California law, paint retailers will collect a recovery fee of 35 cents for every container of paint that is between half a pint and 1 gallon, 75 cents for 1-gallon paints and $1.60 for paints sold in quantities between 1 and 5 gallons. The fees are used to pay for the transportation of paint from drop-off sites to the processors that recycle the material. There is no fee for dropping off old paint for recycling.

More than 63 million gallons of architectural paint are sold in California each year, Zarrehparvar said. Of that, about 10% is usually available for recycling. 

Some paint collected at household hazardous waste facilities is set aside and given away. Latex paint containers that are at least half full and in good condition are sorted by color and reconstituted as recycled paints. Latex paints that cannot be resold because they are moldy or rusty are remanufactured into recycled-content paints and primers.

A recent check showed that 55 of a planned 77 PaintCare collection sites had been set up in L.A. County. Statewide, 700 collection sites are planned, 600 of which will be at retail locations, including many Dunn-Edwards, Kelly-Moore, Vista and Glidden paint stores. For a list of locations, visit www.paintcare.org/california.


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