How to Recycle Paint

Consumer paint comes in primarily two forms: latex (or water-based) and alkyd (or oil-based). It’s important to know which type you have because the disposal options are different for each.

Paint Recycling Preparation

  1. The first step to paint recycling is proper storage. If you have an open can of paint, make sure to keep it covered so the paint doesn’t dry up. You can also wrap the lid in plastic to provide an additional seal. Store it in a cool, dry place between uses.
  2. If you have no more use for half-empty paint cans, see if you can donate them first. Many school drama clubs, community theaters and other nonprofits will accept used paint.
  3. If your paint came in an aerosol can (regardless of type), you’ll want to visit our aerosol cans recycling guide for disposal tips.
  4. If reuse is not an option, then it’s time to find a recycler. Here’s where the story differs based on the type of paint you have:
    • Oil-based paint can’t be recycled, which means you’ll need to use a household hazardous waste (HHW) program. If your community doesn’t offer HHW collection, you’ll want to dry out the paint using kitty litter and/or newspaper and throw it in the trash.
    • For water-based paint, recycling may be an option where you live by taking it to a transfer station. In many cities, latex paint is excluded from HHW collection and special collection events or programs are available.

Why Recycle Paint

  • Water-based paint is the most commonly accepted product at household hazardous waste events nationwide, even though the EPA doesn’t consider it to be hazardous waste. Most hazardous waste is incinerated instead of recycled.
  • New water-based paint can be made from recycled paint, or mixed together to create new colors used for projects like graffiti removal.
  • Using 1 gallon of recycled paint instead of new paint saves 100 kilowatt-hours of energy and keeps 115 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Paint Recycling Questions

Additional Reading

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Trying to recycle paint? Use the @Earth911 recycling search to find a recycling location in your area.