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Introduction

As with any painting project, latex paint is often purchased in greater quantities than needed. For guidance on how to estimate the amount of paint needed for your project, consider visiting PaintCare’s “Paint Smarter” webpage or consult with your local paint store expert. Leftover paint can be reused or reprocessed to make a high-quality, economical, recycled paint for use in place of standard paint. For the latest information on recycled-content products, please visit the Recycled-Content Product Manufacturers search page. To locate your nearest paint recycling centers, you can use PaintCare’s Drop-off Site Locator tool (enter zip code or address).

California Paint Stewardship Program

The California Paint Stewardship Law (Public Resources Code Section 48700--48706) established an industry-led, statewide program which follows producer responsibility principles to reduce the generation of leftover paint, promote its reuse, and properly manage unwanted leftover paint. For more information on the California Paint Recovery Program or recycling unwanted leftover paint, you can visit CalRecycle’s Paint Product Management webpage.

Why Use Recycled Paint?

Lower Cost. Recycled paint is often sold at lower prices than virgin paint of comparable quality.

Product Choices. What was once a one-color, limited-use product is now available in numerous grades, colors, and percentages of postconsumer content. Recycled latex paint can meet a wide variety of specifications and can contain additives such as anti-mildew fungicides and color pigments that can be matched between batches. It is also available for metal surfaces and as primer. It can be sprayed, rolled, or brushed on, just as any other paint.

Disposal Problem. The average household stockpiles 1 to 3 gallons of waste paint per year, according to several studies. In California, unless latex paint is reused or recycled, it is considered a hazardous waste and must be disposed of in a Class I hazardous waste landfill.

Save on Disposal. Landfilling is an unnecessary expense because leftover paint, in most cases, is still a usable product. Purchasing recycled paint creates a market demand that helps build a convenient collection infrastructure.

Definitions

  • Recyclable. “Recyclable paint” is leftover usable latex paint that a customer delivers to a HHW facility, retail drop-off site, paint collection event, or directly to a paint recycler.
  • Consolidated or Reusable. “Consolidated” or “reusable paint” is paint collected and made available to consumers without modification of paint properties by a paint manufacturer.
  • Recycled. “Recycled paint” is recyclable paint that has been reprocessed to meet specific performance specifications, as described below.

Reprocessing

“Recycled paint” is reprocessed or “remanufactured” by steps that usually include the following:

  • Filtering. Most recyclable paint contains a small amount of filterable solids, so the paint must be filtered if it is to be applied by spraying.
  • Mixing with standard paint. Though some recycled paint is 100 percent recycled content, most recycled paint is mixed with standard paint. The added new paint is usually white, which adds coloring flexibility. Most recycled latex paint is at least 50 percent recycled content; however, it is available in a wide range of other percentages as well.
  • Adding pigments. Pigments are added as needed to achieve particular shades.
  • Adjusting pH. New latex paint has a pH between 7.5 and 9.5. Paint tends to lower in pH during storage. Adding amines or ammonia can restore the pH.

Recycled Paint Studies

A survey was conducted by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to determine if recycled content latex paint could meet basic performance standards for application and wear. Survey results “give a strong indication that recycled content paint can compete with comparable virgin paints in performance and durability.”

Additionally, a three-year study was conducted by California Polytechnic State University to evaluate recyclable and recycled latex paint. The study was done in conjunction with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and CalRecycle.

The study found that "a high quality recycled paint may be obtained by blending with virgin materials and by making adjustments in some of the paint properties-principally the viscosity and pH."

State Purchasing

The Public Contract Code (PCC) section 12203 et seq. requires State agencies (including California State Universities) to ensure that at least 50 percent of the dollars spent on paint be spent on recycled paint with a recycled content consisting of at least 50 percent post-consumer paint. The Department of General Services (DGS) awarded a statewide contract for purchasing of recycled latex paint by any local government body or corporation empowered to expend public funds and State agencies. Visit the state list of contracts (search for classifications codes 31211500 (Paints and primers) and 31211506 (Latex paints) and then look for terms “paint,” “recycled,” and “reprocessed”) to obtain information on the current recycled paint contracts.

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