First Paint Producer Responsibility Law Revs Up in Oregon

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A colorful empty paint bucket

In Oregon, empty cans and unused paint will now have accessible and easy to use recycling locations. Photo: Flickr/kabils

As of July 1, Oregon residents now have easy access to local paint recycling programs.

Through a program called Paintcare, a nonprofit  established through a bill  endorsed by the American Coating Association (ACA), the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Metro regional governments, the new bill will help recover a significant amount of unused paint for proper disposal.

The bill is a landmark in extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, as it is a unique partnership between government, industry associations and manufacturers.

“Getting ahead of the producer responsibility trend rather than fighting the inevitable, the paint manufacturers were active partners in figuring out a meaningful solution,” said Abby Boudouris, household hazardous waste coordinator for the Oregon DEQ.

Before you wonder why this is important at all to anyone living outside of Oregon, we promise you won’t be disappointed. An estimated 10 percent of the more than 750 million gallons of architectural paint sold each year in the U.S. goes unused.

Also, post-consumer paint is the largest component of local household hazardous waste (HHW) collection programs and is costly to manage.

These two points mean that paint recycling programs can be hard to come by and are a financial burden on local governments.

But this pilot institutes a product stewardship model that not only ensures environmentally sensitive end-of-life treatment for leftover paint, but also relieves local and state governments of the economic burden of paint waste management.

Paintcare is funded by sales of paint throughout the state, with fees ranging from 35 cents to $1.60, depending on the size of the container purchased.

So, what does all this mean for the rest of the country? If the pilot is successful, states throughout the U.S. could be implementing similar programs moving forward.

“Oregon will serve as a pilot program for the entire paint industry,”said Alison Keane for the ACA. “Our goal is to create a program that can be adapted and improved upon prior to it being adopted in other states.”

“The collection sites will make it convenient for consumers and contractors alike to dispose of their unused paint all in an effort to be environmentally responsible,” she added. “By the end of the year there will be over 90 collection sites for Oregonians to use.”

The program isn’t simply about recycling paint – it also saves consumers money by encouraging accurate purchasing. Paintcare.org has a handy Paint Calculator that tells you (based on the size of your wall) how much paint you should buy, potentially saving painters some serious cash.

Earth911.com is also working with Paintcare to provide an easy paint recycling search for locations throughout the state. Paint was one of the top five most-searched for products on the Earth911.com Recycling Directory during 2009, indicating that consumers are concerned about what to do with their leftover paint and coatings.

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