When consumers buy paint, Maine environmental officials would like them to do three things: buy the right amount, find ways to use it up and reuse or recycle whatever paint is leftover.
Helping to make those goals possible is a program called PaintCare, which started several years ago by the paint industry’s trade association. Maine is part of the program, which includes seven other states and the District of Columbia.
At last count, there were about 90 sites in Maine participating in PaintCare. Consumers can bring unused paint in tightly sealed containers — no larger than five gallons — to one of the sites, where they’re collected on pallets.
Latex paint goes to a recycling facility in Illinois (there currently are no large volume recyclers in the Northeast).
Oil-based paint is considered a hazardous waste, although industry officials are talking with a recycler in Ontario about sending Maine’s oil-based paint there.
Somewhere in our basement is a package of drying agent; when added to the dregs of a can of paint, the stuff will harden it, allowing it to be thrown out with the trash. Multiply our leftover paint with that in basements across Maine, and you’re talking about a lot of paint. Industry officials estimate that 10 percent of all paint that’s purchased is not used and that a good deal of that could be reused or recycled.
The nonprofit ReStores run by Habitat for Humanity accept donations of paint, among other things. The stores sell the paint along with other donated home improvement goods at reduced prices. Other than a few informal recycling efforts, there seems to be little other reuse of our unneeded paint.
That fact prompted the start of the PaintCare effort, which kicked off Oct. 1, 2015, in Maine.
John Hurd of PaintCare says more than 1,000 pallet-size boxes of paint have been collected since then. He says PaintCare pays the bill for towns and cities that collect paint at their transfer stations and hold it for recycling. Hurd told me he’s interested in talking with other municipal officials about increasing the number of drop-off sites.
The Maine Legislature passed a bill in 2013 that approved the PaintCare program. The law includes fees to help pay for the collection; those fees are 35 cents, 70 cents or $1.60 depending on container size, for paint that’s sold in Maine.
Both Hurd and Andrea Lani of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection say they’ve had few questions about the fees.
Lani said she has made several site visits and that the program is running well.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things,” she said. “They’re moving a lot of paint.”
Visit the Department of Enviromental Protection website maine.gov/dep/waste/productstewardship/paint.html or call (800) 452-1942 for more information and a list of drop-off sites.
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