Latex paint is recyclable, but oil-based paint is considered household hazardous waste (HHW). Often HHW facilities will collect usable paint to combine and resell or give away to residents. Have specific questions about recycling paint? Check out our FAQs below.
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Frequent Paint Recycling Questions
Can paint be thrown in the trash?
Latex paint is recyclable, but oil-based paint is considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and should be disposed of at your local HHW facility. In most states, it is illegal to throw oil-based paints in the trash.
When disposing of unused oil-based paint, read the label carefully first and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper disposal. For information on regulations affecting your area, check with your local recycling or household hazardous waste coordinator.
For latex paint, remove the lid from the can and allow the paint to dry out and harden completely. Once the paint has dried completely, it’s ready to be recycled. In some states, dried latex paint can be recycled curbside, while other states require you to bring your cans to a recycling facility. Call your community’s waste management provider to learn the regulations in your state.
Does paint expire?
Yes. The shelf-life of unopened cans of paint varies by manufacturer, so check the label for more information. For open cans, shelf-life is largely determined by how the can is stored.
How do I make paint last longer in storage?
Leftover paint can last for years if it is properly stored. To maximize the shelf-life of your paint, start by covering the opening of the paint can with plastic wrap before closing the lid. This will help create an additional seal when the can is closed.
Use a mallet to close the can for a better seal, and store paint in a cool, dry area away from extreme heat and cold. Mark each paint can with the date opened, so you will know when the paint has passed the manufacturer-issued expiration date.
For added protection, you can also try storing your paint cans upside down to prevent air from drying out the paint. Some local programs discourage upside-down storage, because if the paint goes bad, it may make the lid difficult to open. Check with your local recycling or collection program for recommendations.
Can I buy recycled paint?
Yes. Some manufacturers sell recycled latex paint as part of their product lines, but the best place to source recycled paint is at your local HHW facility.
When facilities take back unexpired paint, they often sell it or give it away to community members for reuse, so the paint doesn’t need to be disposed of. Keeping recycled paint in your community also decreases fuel waste, as paints won’t need to be shipped for disposal.
Ask your local HHW facility if they have a “swap shop” where you can purchase leftover paint dropped off by others at low prices. You can also look into paint made from more uncommon recycled materials, such as low-VOC paint made from recycled plastic bottles.
Can I donate leftover paint?
If you have leftover, unwanted paint that is in good condition, you can donate it to nonprofits and other agencies in your area for reuse in remodeling, set design and other applications. Organizations that accept unwanted paint include high school drama departments, community theater groups, schools, charities and places of worship.
A local chapter of national agencies such as Habitat for Humanity and Keep America Beautiful will also gladly accept unwanted paint.
Can paint be dried out, then thrown away?
Latex, water-based and acrylic paints can be disposed of in this manner. As long as these paints are fully dried, you can throw them into your household trash can.
However, latex and water-based paints can be recycled into new products, such as concrete, cement and other additives. So, it’s always better to recycle your paint to conserve resources.
Some states allow you to recycle dried latex, water-based and acrylic paints curbside, while others require you to bring your cans to a recycling facility. Check with your local waste management provider to learn the regulations in your area.
Oil-based paints should never be tossed in the trash, even if they are dried.
Can paint cans and lids be recycled?
Steel paint cans are recyclable, but not every community accepts paint cans as part of the local recycling program. Check with your local recycling or HHW coordinator for more information. To recycle, the paint can must be empty and all paint contents dried prior to recycling.