Despite its many valuable uses, paint — when disposed of — is often the largest volume product collected by municipal household hazardous waste (HHW) programs: an estimated 10 percent of the more than 650 million gallons of architectural paint — paint used to coat the interior and exterior of houses and other structures — sold each year in the United States goes unused. Much, if not most of this is latex — which is considered “non-hazardous” according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing protocols. This paint is typically managed along with other products in HHW programs as a hazardous waste, which can be very costly. In addition, management of latex paint poses a challenge for many municipalities and counties because liquid latex paint cannot be disposed of as “mixed municipal solid waste” in the regular waste stream. However, latex paint has potential for recycling and diversion from landfills, and as such, the paint industry favors not regarding leftover paint as waste but, rather, as a product that is meant to be completely used or reused.
Yet, while leftover paint can be captured for reuse, recycling, energy recovery or safe disposal, doing so requires public awareness and a convenient and effective local collection system. Many municipal, locally operated HHW programs have been collecting paint for many years; however, as paint collection is expensive, many have discontinued collecting latex-based paints, instead directing the consumer to dry and dispose of it through their regular garbage. With continuing budget constraints, this is a trend that is gaining acceptance; simply put, post-consumer paint collection is currently beyond the capacity of, and budgets for, many local governments.
ACA, after more than five years of promoting a model solution for post-consumer paint management, was instrumental in securing passage of the first-ever paint product stewardship law in the United States in the state of Oregon in July 2009; and since then, parallel legislation has been enacted in California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Minnesota, Maine, Colorado, and Washington, D.C.. ACA created a new 501(c)(3) organization — PaintCare® — to run the program, which directs an industry-led end-of-life management program for postconsumer architectural paint; that is, both oil-based and latex paint, sold in containers of five gallons or less, that are used for the interior and exterior of buildings. This model solution was developed as part of an agreement with federal, state and local government stakeholders.
The PaintCare® program institutes a true product stewardship, or extended producer responsibility model, where industry owns and operate a program that ensures environmentally sensitive end-of-life management for leftover paint, while relieving local and state governments of this economic burden, without creating new, expensive local or state-run programs.
Learn more about PaintCare, and use their Site Locator tool here, by visiting www.paintcare.org.