University of Missouri Extension

WM6009, New February 1996

Setting Up a Used Latex Paint Collection Site

Marie Steinwachs
Office of Waste Management


This technical bulletin describes collection procedures and management options for latex paint only. Solvent-based paint requires very different management procedures. Review the entire bulletin before beginning the program.

Latex paint is not listed as a hazardous waste by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). However, latex paint must be managed in a way that does not adversely affect human health and the environment, or create a public nuisance.

Interior latex paint manufactured prior to August 1990 and exterior latex paint manufactured prior to May 1991 may contain mercury fungicides. Paint manufactured before 1977 may contain more than 600 parts per million (ppm) of lead. Because these metals are toxic, paints containing them may be considered hazardous materials. Any latex paint may contain glycol ethers, organic solvents and pigments, which when disposed of improperly can contaminate our water resources.

A responsible way to manage unwanted latex paint is through a community collection program. Setting up a collection program for latex paint requires no special permits. Many communities have combined latex paint collections with other easily recycled materials (such as used motor oil, oil filters, antifreeze, lead-acid batteries and fluorescent light tubes). Once collected, latex paint may become a valuable resource that can be used by government agencies, community groups, citizens or businesses.

Choosing a collection program

In planning a collection, communities must first determine who will receive the collected latex paint. Your budget and the identity of the end-user will determine the type of collection program that is appropriate for your community. Communities and organizations should consider using recycled paint when possible. The United States General Services Administration (GSA) has identified specifications for remanufactured paint and encourages its use by all federal agencies.

A paint exchange or "drop and swap" program yields paint that is limited by the type and color of paint brought to the collection. Typically, paint is available "as is" and free of charge. This paint may be sufficient for some applications, such as home touch-ups and building maintenance. This is the easiest and least costly type of collection program.

Bulking paint for reuse yields uniform batches of paint, but the color cannot be exactly matched from one batch to the next. Usually, bulked paint is not tested for performance and content specifications, although it could be at an additional cost. Bulked paint may be sufficient for projects not requiring commercial quality paint and specific color choices, such as frequently-painted public buildings. Typically, this paint is provided free or at a minimal cost. A paint bulking program may require more money, equipment, time and space than a drop and swap program.

Paint remanufacturing or recycling provides a consistent paint that meets manufacturer's specifications for color, content and performance. In order to meet these specifications, the final paint may not be 100 percent post-consumer paint. This type of program requires a contract with a paint manufacturer. Collected paint is shipped for remanufacturing in the original cans or in drums. The manufacturer may charge a reprocessing fee and can return the remanufactured paint to the sender, if requested. The high quality paint also may be sold to the public or to government purchasing programs. See "Pre-event planning for paint remanufacturing program" section of this publication for additional information on selecting a manufacturer.



A latex paint collection could be held at a city- or county-owned facility, fire station, landfill, school, recycling center or privately-owned business. The collection site can be a building or lot that is surrounded by an impervious containment area, in case of spills. It is recommended that the owner/operator of the site provide security and control over the collection at all times. Staff should be present to receive the latex paint during open hours. The site should be locked after hours to prevent dumping of unwanted materials. A prominent sign displayed at the site should inform users of the hours of operation and any paint acceptance restrictions, such as only accepting latex paint.

If this is a one-day collection event, traffic flow will have to be controlled by creating lanes for entering and leaving the site. If paint can be picked up during this event, a separate traffic flow path may be needed.


Additional equipment needed for latex paint bulking

Recommended procedures

General pre-event planning

Pre-event planning for paint remanufacturing programs

Checking sources and choosing a company can be time-consuming. Begin your research well ahead of the collection program.

The following are other issues which should be considered when choosing a paint manufacturer and should be specified in a contract between the collection program and paint manufacturer:


Table 1
Safe transport instructions

  1. Keep paint in its original can. Do not mix products.
  2. Check all cans making sure that the lids are tightly sealed.
  3. If the can is leaking, it should be placed within a larger, plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Label the outside of the container with the contents and date. Small leaks can be contained in a sealed, plastic bag.
  4. Place cans upright in a cardboard box and secure so that they do not tip over in transport.
  5. Transport cans in the back of a pickup truck or in a car trunk. If you must transport the cans in the passenger compartment, make sure there is adequate ventilation.

Community education

The collection may provide an opportunity to educate the community on reducing paint waste through accurate estimates of the amounts needed and through proper storage.

The collection can also provide an opportunity to gather data by surveying participant demographics, interest and understanding of household hazardous waste concerns.

Paint sorting protocol Figure 1
Paint sorting protocol. (Adapted from "Sorting Protocols for Paint Recycling," (1994) by Jim Quinn. From The Proceedings of the Ninth National Conference on Household Hazardous Waste Management.)

At the collection


Processing the paint

For paint drop and swap programs

Figure 2
Sample bulked latex paint can label. (The following table includes the label information found in Figure 2 on the printed version of this publication.)


For paint bulking programs

For paint remanufacturing programs

Fate of unusable latex paint

A promising new technology, pyrolysis, separates latex paint into its liquid and solid components. The solid material is used as a filler replacement for roof mastics, plastic filler and cement blocks. One hundred gallons of latex paint reduces to approximately 25 pounds of powder. This is a very good option for unusable and unwanted latex paint. Pyrolysis businesses usually accept bulked paint, regardless of its condition, in 55-gallon drums.

Some groups "fuel blend" unusable paint as fuel for a cement kiln manufacturing Portland cement. Due to its low energy content, latex paint is not a good candidate for this process.

Since it is not considered a hazardous waste, unusable latex paint may be solidified and sent to the landfill. However, this option may violate air quality standards in some areas. Contact your local air pollution official, solid waste official or landfill owner/operator for instructions. This should be a last option, since the goal of having a paint collection is to reduce the impact of these materials on the environment.

Fate of other materials

Regardless of how well you screen the paint at the collection, you may still receive some unwanted products, such as solvent-based paint, stains and paint strippers. You will need to return these materials or develop a management plan and budget for handling them. An option is to identify a local business or contractor that may be willing to donate the cost of disposing of these few materials as a hazardous waste. For more information on working with hazardous waste contractors, see Resources section.

Fate of empty paint cans

The waste from a paint collection can be reduced further if there is a steel recycler in your area willing to accept metal paint cans. The empty paint cans must meet the steel recycler's specifications for paint residues and may need to be dried before acceptance by a recycler. Arrange for the paint cans to be picked up after the collection.

If recycling is not an option, empty paint cans may go to the landfill. During the collection, store the empty cans, with lids off, in a roll-off container to be delivered to the landfill after the latex paint residue has dried. To protect the roll-off from the paint, line it with heavy-mil plastic.


State contacts

Empty metal can recycling

Additional resources on paint recycling

Additional resources on household hazardous waste collections

Copyright 1994 by the Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority. Published by the MU Extension Household Hazardous Waste Project in cooperation with EIERA.
WM6009 Setting Up a Used Latex Paint Collection Site | University of Missouri Extension

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