Paint is a recyclable item. Latex paint is collected at collection facilities in many countries and shipped to paint-recycling facilities.
How paint is recycled
There are many ways that paint can be recycled. Most often, the highest quality of latex paint is sorted out and turned back into recycled paint that can be used. Recycled paint is environmentally preferable to new paint, while still maintaining comparable quality. In many cases, reusable paints of the same color are pumped into a tank where the material is mixed and tested. The paint is adjusted with additives and colorants as necessary. Finally, the paint is fine filtered and packaged for sale.
Paint that cannot be reused has other environmentally friendly uses. Non-reusable paint can be made into a product used in cement manufacturing, thereby recycling virtually 100% of the original paint.
Recycling one gallon of paint could save 13 gallons of water, 1 quart of oil, and 250,000 gallons of water pollution, 13.74 pounds of CO2, save enough energy to power the average home for 3 hours, or cook 6 meals in a microwave oven, or blow dry someone's hair 27 times.
Paint Product Stewardship Initiative
Paint recycling by country
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In Ontario, Stewardship Ontario oversees the collection of waste paint from consumers and diversion from landfill to meet targets approved by the Ministry of the Environment through a program called the Orange Drop Program. The Orange Drop program is an extensive and growing network of collection sites—drop-off locations for paint leftovers and other special materials that can’t go in the Blue Box or the garbage.
As an Orange Drop-approved transporter and processor, Loop Recycled Products Inc.  takes leftover paint, collected through Stewardship Ontario, and turns it into 12 shades of premium, affordable and environmentally friendly recycled paint. Reusing top-quality residual paint (on average, the original retail value of a gallon of incoming paint is approximately $30) enables Loop to create premium products without the raw material costs and energy consumption needed to make paint from scratch.
Since 2012, Loop Recycled Products Inc. has diverted over 6 million litres of paint from disposal in Ontario’s landfills, incineration and waterways and is committed to innovation and solving Canada’s waste paint problem.
In February 2015 Waste Diversion Ontario approved Product Care as the new Ontario waste paint stewardship operator effectively replacing Stewardship Ontario.
Alberta’s paint recycling program started accepting leftover, unwanted paint on April 1, 2008. It is estimated that about 30 million liters of paint is sold in Alberta each year. On average, 5 to 10 percent of this ends up as waste, which can pose environmental and health risks if disposed of improperly. Paint contains many components that have great potential for reuse, recycling and recovery. The Paint Recycling Alberta program enables these products to be handled and recycled in an environmentally safe manner, reducing their impact on the environment. The program is funded through environmental fees charged on the sale of new paint in Alberta. The fees are put into a dedicated fund that can only be used to manage the paint recycling program.
The paint is sorted into different streams and sent to registered processors to be recycled into new paint, used in other products or in energy recovery, or sent for proper disposal if necessary. Any processor that receives paint must be registered with the Paint Recycling Program and meet all applicable environmental, transportation, health & safety, and local requirements.
Calibre Environmental LTD. (CEL) located in Calgary, Alberta, became a key part in 2008 of the new Alberta Paint Stewardship program which significantly increased the recycling of unused latex paint from across the province of Alberta. Calibre Environmental Ltd. currently processes about 1.6 million kilograms of latex paint annually, which equates to the successful recycling of one million litres of quality latex paint per year.
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In the UK reusable leftover paint can be donated to Community RePaint, a national network of paint reuse schemes. The network comprises local schemes run by not-for-profit organisations, local authorities or waste management companies, in the Community RePaint network. The schemes collect surplus paint from trade sources i.e. painters, decorators, retailers, manufacturers, and/or leftover paint donated by householders at council household waste and recycling centres (also known as tips). The paint is then sorted by staff and volunteers before being redistributed to local charities, community groups, families and individuals in need. The Community RePaint network, is sponsored by Dulux (part of AkzoNobel), managed by an environmental consultancy, Resource Futures and has been cited as an example of best practice for the management of surplus paint in a report by the European Commission and by DEFRA in Guidance on Applying the Waste Hierarchy.
There are also a handful of companies recycling paint in the UK, but only two reprocessing waste paint, back into the quality of virgin paint; Newlife Paints. Newlife Paints was formed in 2008 after Keith Harrison, an industrial chemist, developed a process that converted waste emulsion paint back into full quality, commercial grade paint. Castle RePaint, part of the social enterprise company Castle Furniture also consolidates unwanted emulsion paint into brand new 'RePaint' in a range of colours.
Concerns about the life cycle of paint have led to the creation of PaintCare, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization established to represent paint manufacturers (paint producers) to plan and operate paint stewardship programs in the United States in those states that pass paint stewardship laws.
Paint stewardship law aims to enable the paint industry to implement a collection program that allows consumers to take their leftover, unwanted paint to a collection site to be collected and recycled. Legislation mandating the creation of the PaintCare program has been enacted in eight states since 2009: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Minnesota, Maine, and Colorado. Legislation has also been passed for the District of Columbia; PaintCare anticipates beginning the District's paint stewardship program in September 2016. PaintCare is responsible for promoting the reuse of post-consumer architectural paint (leftover paint) and providing for the collection, transport, and processing of this paint using the hierarchy of "reduce, reuse, recycle," and proper disposal. Most PaintCare locations are at paint retailers who volunteer to take back paint. These retailers take back paint during regular business hours, making paint recycling and disposal much more convenient for the public.
Paint is shipped to companies such as Amazon Environmental, GDB International, Metro Paint (Oregon), UCI Environmental (Nevada) and Kelly Moore, Visions Paint Recycling, Inc (California)& Williams Paint Recycling Company. In the Southern California area, Acrylatex Coatings & Recycling, Inc. accepts unused/unwanted latex paints for reprocessing into a viable resource of recycled paints in 20-standard colors. In the southeastern United States Atlanta Paint Disposal has a paint recycling program with drop off locations in Atlanta, Georgia. In the northeast The Paint Exchange, LLC recycles latex paint under the brand recolor®.
A new charitable organization known as The Global Paint for Charity incorporated in Georgia, US, has as its mission to collect leftover paint from residents and businesses nationwide and use it for global housing rehabilitation projects, including homes, schools, hospitals, jails and churches for vulnerable families in developing countries. They partner with non-profit organizations with existing operations in these continents for paint distribution. Through the support of their donors and partners they are able to improve communities, increase access to quality paints and protect the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that every homeowner in the US has 3 to 4 gallons of leftover paints in their basement, and 10 percent of those paints ends up in landfills.
One gallon of improperly disposed paint has the ability to pollute up to 250,000 gallons of water.
By participating in the program, individuals and businesses will take greater steps to protect the environment, and improve living conditions for vulnerable populations throughout the world. If you would like to support the Global Paint for Charity, they encourage you to take action today.
Improve access of high-quality paints to vulnerable populations around the world. Nearly 2.5 billion people in developing countries live on less than $2 a day. For them, paint is very expensive. In these settings, it is very difficult for families to secure sufficient income for their basic needs (including but not limited to: food, medicine, water, clothes, school supplies, and shelter). When making consumption choices that involve spending on their basic needs there is nothing left to spend on paint. The paint shortage affects many other areas of the world, where communities lack even the most basic need and materials to uplift their people. For the world’s poorest communities, home isn’t just where the heart is. Dirt walls and neglected communities are not attractive to tourists, putting those who can’t afford paint, not only at the greatest rick of life-threatening of bad germs but also lack of economic opportunities.
Since it started years ago, as many as 500–6000 gallons of paint have been shipped at a time to developing countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Guyana, Guinea, Ghana, Jamaica and Mexico, 240 volunteers have painted 459 family homes and 40 schools and orphanages with over 150,000 gallons of donated paint from businesses and residences.
Global Paint for Charity continues to expand and impact our communities around the world. They do this through working directly with their volunteers, donors, and partners. From developing paint projects that engage their employees in the beautification of the community; to run frequent local paint drives to support their program.
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- European, Commission; Gendebien, A.; Leavens, A.; Blackmore, K.; Godley, A.; Lewin, K.; Franke, B.; Franke, A. (July 2002). "Study on Hazardous Household Waste with a main emphasis on Hazardous Household Chemicals" (PDF). European Commission Directorate - General Environment. Retrieved 2011-11-23.
- Defra (June 2011). "Guidance on Applying the Waste Hierarchy" (PDF). Defra. Retrieved 2011-11-23.
- New Life Paints. "About Us". Retrieved 2011-11-23.