Paint

About 10% of all household latex and oil-based paint goes unused in the U.S. – that’s about 80 million gallons each year. The MO PSC estimates that in our state, approximately 1.3 million gallons of leftover paint are disposed each year.

Missouri could gain financial benefits of over $12 million annually on the collection and management of this leftover paint.

When dumped in the trash or down the drain, unused paint can contaminate our environment with volatile organic compounds, fungicides, and (in the case of very old paint) hazardous metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium.

Although most leftover paint can be easily reused, recycled into new paint, or repurposed into other recycled products, much of it is poured down trains or disposed in the trash because people don’t know where to take it or have no other options. Paint is the most expensive product for local household hazardous waste (HHW) programs to manage – proper paint management can consume up to half of a HHW program’s entire budget!

Each year in Missouri, local governments and solid waste management districts (SWMDs) spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to manage leftover paint. Reports show that Missouri governments spent over $380,000 on the collection and proper disposal of leftover paint in 2018. Many SWMDs and local jurisdictions in Missouri do not accept latex paint for HHW disposal, so residents either dispose of it in municipal waste streams or store it in their homes.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws, which require paint companies to develop and manage paint stewardship programs, make it easy for consumers to recycle unused paint and relieve much of local governments’ financial burden. Ten states and Washington, D.C. have already passed EPR laws modeled after a multi-stakeholder agreement facilitated by PSI in 2007. These laws provide the framework for state-wide paint stewardship programs, and ensure a level playing field for paint retailers and manufacturers. The American Coatings Association (ACA, the professional organization representing U.S. paint manufacturers), state and local governments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recyclers, and other key stakeholders all signed the agreement mediated by PSI. Now, ACA sponsors paint stewardship legislation in interested states with the support of these other stakeholders.

Under paint EPR laws, consumers pay a small “eco fee” for recycling when they purchase new paint – usually 75 cents per gallon. An industry-run non-profit, PaintCare, uses this funding to collect, transport, and process leftover paint.

So far, paint EPR programs in the U.S. have collected more than 50 million gallons of paint (reusing or recycling over 25 million gallons), created 200 jobs, and saved governments (and taxpayers) over $240 million. With more than 2,000 voluntary collection sites (more than 70% at retail locations), the program has created unprecedented convenience for consumers to return leftover paint.

Resources for the Paint Workgroup

Additional Resources

Retailer Outreach
MO PSC has created a Guide to Talking to Retailers about paint stewardship. The guide includes sign-up sheets for retailers who support or would like more information on paint stewardship.

Paint Stewardship Resolution
A Resolution Supporting a Product Stewardship Program for Paint is a document that local governments and organizations can adopt to demonstrate their support for bringing a paint stewardship program to Missouri. The resolution is in a Word document that you can edit to include your organization’s name. 

The Product Stewardship Institute provides technical assistance and lobbying services to members and partners to support the passage of new paint EPR legislation and improve existing laws. PSI led the formation of the International Paint Recycling Association (IPRA), which represents North American recycled paint manufacturers in their quest to overcome market barriers and boost demand for recycled paint. Check out PSI’s Paint product page for more information.