Safe Recycling for Your Paint Leftovers

Homeowners all seem to have this item lurking around. It’s left on a shelf in the garage, or underneath a workbench or tucked away in a shed. What is it? It is leftover paint and other liquid coatings; primers, varnishes, sealants and shellacs. If we have lived long enough in our homes, we usually repaint either the interior or the exterior or both. We can’t guess precisely how much paint it will take, so we overallow. This means that we end up with excess paint. In fact, Americans don’t use about 10% of the paint they buy. This amounts to 78 million gallons of unused paint every year.

Luckily, there are ways to either use or recycle your leftover paint. There are many small outdoor projects that could use some of your exterior paint. You could paint a shed or shelves inside a shed, potter’s bench, steps, mailbox, rattan outdoor furniture, and terra cotta pots. Indoors, you can paint small furniture items like accent tables, night stands, headboards, doors, and stencils on doors, walls and cupboards. There are many other small accent items that can be painted, such as; valances, coat racks, baskets, picture frames, light fixtures or the inside of a bookcase, cabinet, or drawers. Let your imagination run wild!

Of course, we can’t just throw unused paint in the garbage. For environmental safety, we need to recycle or dispose of it properly. One safe way to dispose of old paint is to open it and let it completely dry out. It can then be put in the garbage. If you have more than a small amount, then you can use the PaintCare program. PaintCare, Inc. is a national nonprofit dedicated to recycling paint properly. The American Coatings Association (ACA) lobbied to start a U.S. Paint Stewardship law in Oregon in 2009. The law passed, was established in 2010 and has been functioning ever since to assist Oregonians with recycling their paints.

There are now 168 drop-off sites for recycling paint and other coatings in the state. Ninety-eight percent of Oregonians live within 15 miles of one of these paint drop-off sites. To find one near you, go to: and look for their locator tool. Paint retailers like Miller, Rodda and Sherwin-Williams participate in the PaintCare program. Our Metro recycling centers also collect and process paint for reuse.

You can drop off both latex and oil-based paint, varnish, shellac, primers, sealers and stains at Metro or other PaintCare retailers. There is a modest recycling fee of $.95 per gallon. This covers the cost of processing the paint, transporting it, educating the public and administering the program. PaintCare, Inc. also has a recycling grant competition. They identify the best new ideas for recycling leftover latex paint and provide the winning idea with up to $100,000 in grant money to pursue it and make it a reality.

PaintCare processed over 810,000 gallons of paint for reuse in 2017. This makes a significant dent in the amount of paint that is improperly disposed of. You can do the right thing and take your excess paint to a PaintCare drop-off site. You can also look to buy recycled paint and save money on your next project. The next time you find yourself in the garage staring at all of your partial cans of paint, think about the many ways your can either use it or safely get rid of it. It doesn’t need to be taking up valuable space in your home.