An experiment in recycling paint has turned into a long-term effort, and both Metro and Oregon are on the cutting edge of a nationwide trend.
The Paint Care recycling program has expanded its reach, growing from 100 drop off sites to 140.
Paint Care started its trial run in 2010. Oregon, known for being on the leading edge of environmental efforts, proved to be an ideal testing ground. And Metro was an ideal partner and primary recycler of latex paint. Since 2010, Paint Care has proved to be a success and has since been signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Prior to 2010, Metro focused on processing paint that was collected around the Portland metropolitan area. Through this partnership, Paint Care provides access to many drop off locations, making recycling paint as convenient as buying paint. It is this accessibility that allows Metro to collect and process paint for most of Oregon.
In the 2013, Metro processed 330,000 gallons of paint. Since the program has become permanent, there has been an increase in the number of gallons processed due to the expansion of drop off sites. Even with this increase, Metro is able to keep up with the demands of recycling.
Once the paint comes to the recycling facility on Swan Island, the paint is tested for quality, enhanced with additives, and blended into 18 stock colors. MetroPaint is then sold at a fraction of price of new paint, including a small fee that funds the Paint Care program. MetroPaint can be found in more than 60 retail stores including Miller Paint locations and select Fred Meyer stores.
Jim Quinn, manager of Metro's hazardous waste program, said that the effects of the Paint Care program are long term.
"It gives us some certainty. We can plan knowing that this is a permanent program," Quinn said. "Before, it would cost us more to manage the paint, but with this program the industry is responsible for the leftover paint."
Quinn said that change has saved Metro nearly $ 1 million a year.
With the success of this program, there are hopes for the eventual expansion into all 50 states. According to Paint Care, California and Connecticut are slated to start programs of their own.
Quinn would like to use this system to manage other hazardous waste products such as fluorescent lamps, batteries, pesticides and household solvents. "We see this as an excellent model for how to handle other hazardous materials from homes." Quinn said. "It’s convenient and it is adequately funded."