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Managing paint waste wisely

Garbage and recycling    Guide to hazardous waste    Managing paint waste wisely

Find out how to prevent, reduce, recycle or safely dispose of common paint wastes to protect water quality, fish, wildlife and people.

All painting jobs create wastes that can harm humans, waterways, fish and other wildlife if handled or disposed improperly. Paints and paint waste can enter storm drains from runoff or improper disposal. Storm drains carry untreated pollutants directly into streams and rivers, harming aquatic plants, animals, fish and those who eat the fish.

Why you should be concerned

Aside from causing environmental damage, improper disposal violates Oregon law. OAR 340-61-020 (1), OAR 340-45-015 (1) (a) & (b), and ORS 459.205 (1) all prohibit improper disposal of wastes and contamination of waters and provide for civil and criminal penalties for violators.

Most painters manage wastes responsibly, but sometimes disposal options can be confusing. This information is designed to help you prevent, reduce, recycle or safely dispose of common painting wastes. The result will be happier customers who appreciate your concern for their property and a safer environment.

What is paint waste?

  • solvents (water, mineral spirits, toluene)
  • oil-based paint
  • latex paint
  • rags
  • paint chips/dust
  • paint and solvent containers

What you can do with usable leftover paint

  • Check into donating leftover paint to local theaters, schools, clubs or churches.
  • Give small amounts of paint left over at the end of a job to the customer for touch up.
  • Combine light-colored leftover paints for use as primer on future jobs.
  • Recycle unwanted latex paint through Metro's latex paint recycling program for businesses.
  • Dispose of unwanted oil-based paint at a permitted hazardous waste management facility.

Clean-up do's

  • Use the least toxic cleanup solvent available.
  • Use a three-stage wash-up system to extend the life of solvents.
  • Allow paint solids in used solvents to settle so the clear portion can be poured off and reused.
  • Dispose of spent solvents at a permitted hazardous waste management facility.
  • After separating solids, pour latex clean up water down a drain that is connected to the public sanitary sewer system.

Clean-up don'ts

  • Don't pour oil-based or latex waste paint or clean-up materials onto the ground.
  • Don't pour any paint or clean-up materials into storm drains, ditches, gutters, catch basins, dry wells, creeks or other surface water drainage.
  • Don't put liquid paint, solvent or clean-up waste in garbage cans or dumpsters.

Other paint job waste

  • Remove lids from empty paint containers and allow them to dry out. Clean, empty metal paint cans and lids can be recycled at the curb. Clean, empty plastic paint buckets can also be recycled at the curb, but the lids cannot.
  • Allow rags to dry thoroughly and dispose in the garbage.
  • Dispose of paint chips and dust properly. For information, call Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at 503-229-5263.
  • Most paint strippers are hazardous and should be disposed as hazardous waste. For a flyer about less toxic alternatives, call Metro Recycling Information at 503-234-3000.

Common sense tips and guidelines

  • Purchase only the amount of paint needed for each job.
  • Use latex paint whenever possible.
  • Use tarps and drip pans to collect paint and solvent spills.
  • Keep containers tightly sealed when not in use to avoid spills.
  • Avoid contaminating ground surface with paint chips and dust.
  • Use high-efficiency spray guns to minimize overspray.
  • Train employees and subcontractors to handle paint waste properly.
  • Store leftover latex paint, oil-based paint and solvents separately in original or clearly marked containers.

For more information about managing painting waste in the Portland metropolitan area, call DEQ at 503-229-5263.

Need assistance?

Metro Recycling Information
503-234-3000
Send a message

Did you know?

paint recycling

Paint recycling options expand

Oregon's new industry program for paint recycling makes it even more convenient to drop off unwanted paint and keep reusable materials out of landfills. Find collection sites in the Metro region and statewide. Learn more

Did you know?

You can save money by recycling construction and demolition debris instead of landfilling it.

Did you know?

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MetroPaint: quality recycled latex paint

Metro makes and sells award-winning MetroPaint, 100 percent recycled latex available in 18 beautiful, blendable colors at a fraction of the price of other paints. Find out more

By the Numbers

Over 12 million
Pounds of oil-based paint and other flammable products that Metro's hazardous waste collection program has sent to special facilities for energy recovery.

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