Ask Waste Watchers: How do I dispose of paint?
Vail, CO Colorado
What is the easiest and least expensive way to properly dispose of unwanted latex paint?
Abbie in Gypsum
Thanks for the great question, Abbie, and for choosing to dispose of your paint properly.
There are two relatively easy and inexpensive ways to properly dispose of unwanted latex paint.
The easiest way to properly dispose of all types of paint, not just water-based paint, is to bring it to the Household Hazardous Waste facility in Wolcott.
The advantage of this method is that you do not have to differentiate between water-based paints and oil- or solvent-based paints. Water-based paints, including latex paint, are not considered hazardous materials. Oil- and solvent-based paints are hazardous and need to be incinerated. The HHW will make the determination for you and dispose of your paint appropriately.
Residents of Eagle County can drop off as many as 20 items per visit free of charge, with a charge of $0.20 per pound for anything more than the 20 items.
Businesses also can dispose of their paint at the HHW facility for a charge. Please call for more details.
The HHW processes approximately 40,000 pounds of latex paint per year! Latex and other water-based paints are crushed onto a bed of wood chips on site. The wood chips absorb the liquids from the paint and, when dry, can be buried in the landfill.
An alternative way to properly dispose of latex paint is to simply remove the lid and let the paint air dry. To speed up the drying process, you may add sand, kitty litter, sawdust or shredded paper. Commercial paint hardeners will greatly speed up the drying process, are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at hardware stores.
Municipal landfills are not designed to accept liquids, so it is important that the paint be completely dry before discarding. Also, your garbage collector does not want to crush a can of paint and have it leak into the street.
Once the paint is completely dry, it can be discarded with your regular garbage.
While this method of disposal is essentially free of charge, there are some disadvantages to drying your own paint that you should take into consideration. You must be able to tell the difference between water-based paint and flammable paint, as flammable paint can present a fire hazard when the lids are left off. Latex paint can take a long time to dry. Paint drying in the can tends to develop a crust that prevents the paint underneath the crust from drying. You will need to stir the paint periodically, which can be messy and time-consuming. You also need to keep the paint cans protected from rain, snow, inquisitive children and pets.
Joseph Walls is hazardous-waste specialist at the Eagle County Household Hazardous Waste facility, located at the landfill in Wolcott. The facility is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Call 970-328-3468 or visit http://www.eaglecounty.us/recyclingwaste for information.