Watching paint dry is key to latex disposal

Written by Donna Stuckert. Posted in Featured

Published on November 11, 2015 with No Comments

Leftover latex paint sitting in your garage or basement is not considered household hazardous waste (HHW).

Your solid waste management district sponsors household hazardous waste events in Northwest Indiana to collect products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive ingredients. Latex paint, a water-based product, does not fall into that category; however, oil-based paint does.

Most people bring their paints to these events and don’t distinguish the difference. Lake and Porter solid waste management districts accept both products knowing that residents don’t differentiate. It’s easier to say “bring your paint,” than “bring your oil-based paint.” What you don’t know is that the majority of the products collected at any HHW event usually is latex paint, and your district pays to get rid of this non-hazardous material.

Wouldn’t you rather your solid waste management district use its household hazardous waste budgets for things like mercury, aerosol cans, rat poison and old gasoline, versus latex paint? After all, as a resident of Lake or Porter County, you are paying for this “free” collection through either taxes or fees.

The purpose for HHW events is to give residents an opportunity to properly dispose of products that can harm the environment through improper disposal methods, like pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers; burning them; flushing them down the toilet; burying them; dumping them in vacant lots or in ditches; or putting them out with your trash.

The dangers of these disposal methods might not be apparent, but improper disposal can contaminate lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater (located below the ground before it goes to a river, stream or well); pollute the air with dangerous fumes; or put your sanitation and landfill workers at risk for serious injury.

One household hazardous waste event can cost your district anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000, depending on the amount of the material collected. If the majority of the material is latex paint, then your solid waste management district’s budget is being used for something that can be, and should be, landfilled.

Though not ideal, as throwing something in the trash is something district staff strives to avoid, here’s what you should do:

  1. If you have a can of old latex paint lying around, first check to see how much you have left. If you have a small quantity, dry it out and throw it in your garbage. It’s not worth the effort to recycle a small amount. Simply leave the lid off the can for a few days until the product is dry and throw the lid and the can in the garbage separately! That’s right; leave the lid off the can so your waste hauler can see the paint is dry and won’t leak from the truck all the way to the transfer station.
  2. If you have a larger quantity of paint that will take a longer time to dry, mix in some dirt or kitty litter to help incorporate air into the product. Leave the lid off to dry out the product. Once dry, throw the can and the paint separately into the garbage.
  3. If you have cans of latex paint that are practically full, recycle them. Residents of Lake and Porter Counties can bring these cans to the Hobart Latex Paint Recycling Facility, 340 S. Shelby St., Mondays through Fridays, 7 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
  4. Reuse is even preferable to recycling, because recycling uses energy. LaPorte County residents especially, who don’t have the option to use the Hobart facility, can consider donating their full cans of paint to a worthy cause like Habitat for Humanity or other non-profits that have to maintain facilities. These organizations have a budget and are usually very appreciative of product donations.

Really, the best way to get rid of your leftover latex paint is not to have extra paint in the first place. When you buy paint, get only what you need. “Reduce” comes before “reuse” and “recycle.” Reduce your consumption by purchasing less. Be thoughtful about what you buy, what you’ll use, and what you’ll do with the leftovers.

Reuse your leftovers or give it to someone who could use it. Recycle large quantities that are leftover; and throw away less significant quantities.

For more information on getting rid of latex paint, contact your solid waste management agency:

Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County

Lake County Solid Waste Management District

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About Donna Stuckert


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Donna Stuckert is the Community Education Coordinator for the Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County. She is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience who enjoys working for the greater good and inspiring others on making a difference. For more information or to reach Stuckert, e-mail DStuckert@ItMeansTheWorld.org.

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