What Happens to Leftover Paint?

It’s one thing to keep paint out of landfills and groundwater by collecting it and shipping it “away”, but what happens to it after that?

Like any other recycled product, what happens to paint depends on who is handling it and what markets they have. The simplest method is to put the good cans out for the public to take and reuse. Saskatchewan’s new provincial paint recycling program includes a re-use component. Paint exchanges can reduce the volume of paint by up to 25%, depending on the quality of paint received.

The next easiest technique is paint consolidation. Paint is checked for contaminants, filtered and mixed into larger containers for reuse. If the paint is somewhat colour separated, you usually get a beige and a dark brown. The paint can then be sold or given away for community projects or graffiti control.

A more sophisticated approach is to carefully separate the paint and process it for re-sale. The Paint Recycling Company, based in Atlantic Canada, does exactly that. They separate the paint into as many as twelve categories, run it through filters, test it, add pigments and market it as "Nature Colours." Laurentide ReSource handles all of the paint from Nova Scotia’s Paint Stewardship Program (see Paint Stewardship in Canada), as well as from other parts of Atlantic Canada.

Most re-blending operations use only latex paint because there are more potential problems with mixing oil-based paints. Also, oil paints have a higher energy value than latex and can be sold as fuel for incinerators or cement kilns.

Solid paints are a different problem. Solid latex can be added to Portland cement. (Portland cement is the glue that holds concrete together). A U.S. paint recycling company, Amazon Environmental, creates a product from solid latex called Processed Latex Pigment for Portland cement. If it is not reprocessed, solid latex is most often treated in a hazardous waste facility or landfilled.

[Source: June 2003 WasteWatch ]