About 10 percent of all household latex and oil-based paint goes unused in the U.S. – that’s about 80 million gallons each year. When dumped in the trash or down the drain, unused paint can contaminate our environment with volatile organic compounds, fungicides, and (in the case of very old paint) hazardous metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium.
Although most leftover paint can be easily reused, recycled into new paint, or repurposed into other recycled products, much of it is trashed because people don’t know where to take it, and often have no other options. Paint is the most expensive product for local household hazardous waste programs to manage, costing governments and taxpayers across the country millions of dollars.
Paint recycling creates jobs, saves natural resources, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing new paint. However, collecting paint from households requires permanent, convenient drop-off options for consumers and outreach to promote them -- all of which requires sustained funding.
Extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws, which require paint companies to develop and manage paint stewardship programs, make it easy for consumers to recycle unused paint and relieve much of local governments’ financial burden. Eight states and the District of Columbia have already passed EPR laws modeled after a multi-stakeholder agreement facilitated by PSI in 2007. Thanks to that agreement, the American Coatings Association (the professional organization representing U.S. paint manufacturers), governments, recyclers, and other key stakeholders all support such legislation.
Under paint EPR laws, consumers pay a small “eco fee” for recycling when they purchase new paint. An industry-run non-profit, PaintCare,uses this sustainable funding to manage the leftover paint.
So far, paint EPR programs in the U.S. have reused and recycled more than 16 million gallons of paint, created 200 jobs, and saved governments (and taxpayers!) over $150 million. With more than 1,700 voluntary collection sites (77 percent at retail locations), the program has created unprecedented convenience for consumers to drop off leftover paint.
How We’re Leading the Way
PSI provides technical assistance and lobbying services to members and partners to support the passage of new paint EPR legislation and improve existing laws. This year, we are working actively to pass bills in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, including the development of educational materials related to paint stewardship legislation and submitting testimony.
PSI led the formation of the International Paint Recycling Association (IPRA), which represents North American recycled paint manufacturers in their quest to overcome market barriers and boost demand for recycled paint. PSI works with IPRA to raise consumer awareness about the low cost and high quality of recycled paint, develop a recycled latex paint quality standard, and identify market opportunities for recycled paint.
PSI evaluates paint stewardship programs and provides research and technical services to resolve implementation issues as they arise, as well as pave the way for new laws. PSI is currently evaluating the PaintCare program in Colorado, which has been in operation since 2015. In 2018, PSI led a research project to identify potential markets for solidified or spoiled leftover latex paint that cannot be reused or turned into recycled-content paint. The study, commissioned by several Minnesota counties in partnership with PaintCare, analyzed the composition and condition of paint collected and investigated emerging technologies.
How You Can Help
Contact PSI for legislative assistance or to develop support for an EPR bill based on the highly effective, paint industry-supported model.
Purchasing agents, painting contractors, designers, and DIYers
Choose high quality recycled paint, which is often cheaper than virgin paint and made from high quality name brand paint.