By Marie Look on Apr 20, 2009

Governments, Residents Embrace Paint Recycling

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Metro paint recycling program

MetroPaint in Portland, Oreg. recycles about 350,000 gallons of paint each year. Photo: Metro

Residents from coast to coast are snapping up recycled paint to brighten walls of their houses, barns and offices.

The environmental perk of reusing leftover latex is just part of the appeal. In various towns, recycled paint is free. Or, it’s sold at a fraction of the price of a new gallon.

“You’re going to save a lot of money using this paint,’’ said David Schaleger, latex paint recycling specialist for Metro regional government in Portland, Oreg. The Metro government produces and sells at least 20 different shades of its recycled product, MetroPaint. “It’s great paint,” Schaleger said. “It’s thick and rich. It looks great.”

Government agencies with paint recycling programs use varied approaches to processing and allocating their reblended products. Some mix their batches on site. Others send old paint to an outside facility.

FAST FACT: 10 percent of all paint that’s purchased in the U.S. is eventually discarded

In Marion County, Oreg., unwanted paint is picked up curbside with other household recyclables. County staff and jail inmates pour all the usable stuff in a vat. The mix-and-match array of hues typically blends into a shade of gray, which is filtered to sift out grit and debris.

The emphasis on recycling extends how the gray paint is repackaged. Often, it’s handed out in plastic buckets that previously were used at business in the area that produces fruit juice. The paint labels are printed on the backs of used office paper.

The county produces about 30,000 to 35,000 gallons of gray paint a year, and offers it to residents at no fee. Some residents use it as a primer.

In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Broward County government set up its paint recycling program about nine years ago. About 655,000 gallons have since been handed out to residents.
“We’re trying to recycle as much out of the waste stream as we can,’’ said D.J. McPherson, public education coordinator for Broward County Solid Waste and Recycling Services.

Broward sends residents’ old paint cans to an out-of-state facility, GDB International in the Midwest. Divided by color, the paints are poured through a filtering screen into a vat featuring similar hues. Chemists adjust the blends in each vat to match four standard shades of recycled paint; beige, grey, terra cotta and turquoise. The colors are packaged in five-gallon pails and sent back to Broward, where they’re offered to residents for free.

“It goes out almost as fast as it comes in,” McPherson said.

Check Out: This Paint is Made from Plastic Bottles

Back in Oregon, where Marion County is producing it’s version of recycled paint, Metro regional government officials also offer recycled paint, for a price.

The facility on Swan Island produces about 20 standard colors, with such fancy names as Barn Red, Seashell, Sand Dune, Tuscan Olive and Mountain Snow. Occasionally, some other so-called potpourri shades are produced.

As with the GDB International technique, the process involves filtering usable leftover paints and then pouring them into tanks with other similar hues. In 300-gallon batches, the mix-and-match blends are adjusted to produce the desired shade. The adjustments are made usually by adding recycled paint from other color families.

“It’s all done by eye,’’ Schaleger said.

Marion County, Oregon, Oreg., paint recycling program

Paint is swirled together at one of Marion County, Oregon’s paint recycling facilities. Photo: Marion County

MetroPaint is sold in different variations, including a certified label featuring a fungus and mold inhibitor, Schaleger said.

The paint is sold at cost at the MetroPaint facility and at some retail shops in Pacific Northwest area. Depending on the type and shade of paint, the prices are in the range of $7 to $10 for one-gallon cans and $32 to $47 for five-gallon pails. The prices of MetroPaints sold at retail stores may be a bit more.

MetroPaint sales average about about 155,000 gallons a year.

For folks who may be skeptical about recycled paint, Schaleger said, there’s no need to be. It looks great, he said, and its application is just like any other brand. “You use use a brush and wait for a dry and step back and admire your work,’’ Schaleger said.

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