Spray Paints, Container/Can Recycling, Paint Recycling and Other
and Disposal of Aerosol Spray Paints
When it comes to spray paints, you should follow some
important guidelines.Buy only the spray paint you need, and save it
to use again for years to come. Sometimes after storage, some partially
full spray paint cans may fail to spray. Almost always, this is because
the directions concerning shaking before use and cleaning the spray
head after use were not followed properly. Spray paint will usually
spray again if the nozzle is removed and cleaned thoroughly, and all
dried paint particles are also removed. It might be necessary to repeat
the cleaning process.
If you can't
use up your leftover spray paint, it should be donated to those
who need it, but keep in mind that spay paint should never be given
to children who may use the paint to deface property or to inhale
the vapors. Paint can also be exchanged in a community paint exchange
or paint swap.
used up the entire can of spray paint, remember that spray paint
cans can be recycled with other empty steel cans.
If a partially
full aerosol paint can fails to spray after cleaning, or you absolutely
cannot use up, donate or exchange the leftover paint, then, as a
last resort, dispose of the spray paint properly. This means you'll
need to save the can for a special household hazardous waste collection
in your area, or take it to a local household hazardous waste collection
Paint Can and Aerosol Can Recycling
more than 50 years, the steel industry has had an annual recycling
rate of over 50 percent. The production of new steel actually requires
at least 25 percent "old" high-grade steel, or "scrap"
cans used to package consumer products are made from high-grade
steel, they are an excellent source of scrap for new steel production.
More than 55.9 percent of all steel cans were, in fact, recovered
for recycling in 1995 in the United States.
Like most steel
food cans, paint cans, including aerosol spray paint cans, are made
of high-grade steel, and should be part of every community's curbside
or drop-off recycling program. Cans with labels and even a slight
residue of dried paint are acceptable for recycling, because melting
steel requires temperatures of about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This
heat consumes residual materials, such as small amounts of dried
leftover paint in cans and the labels, during the steel-making process.
NPCA and the
Institute (SRI) are working together to promote the recyclability
of empty steel paint cans and aerosol cans, including spray paint
products. More than 3,500 municipal locations currently collect
empty aerosol cans, and more than 2,400 collect empty paint cans
through municipal programs. General instructions are quite simple:
- Empty the
container through normal use.
- Empty paint
cans no more than a thin skin of dried paint should remain
on the inside of the can.
- Empty aerosol
cans remove the plastic overcap, if detachable.
- Put the
paint can and its steel lid and the aerosol can in the recycling
have questions or concerns, they should check with the local recycling
program coordinator to get specific instructions for local programs.
paint containers are generally made of high density polyethylene
(HDPE, SPI Code 2). Many communities have recycling programs which
generally include HDPE-type rigid plastic containers. Check in your
area to find out whether your local recycling program accepts these
Can't You Just Return Post-Consumer Paint to Retailers and Manufacturers_
stores and home centers particularly small businesses
are generally not set up as waste collection sites, and usually
don't have the necessary space, permits or staff training to safely
and properly handle waste collection. It is better to rely on trained
and equipped municipalities and special waste collection companies.
For the paint manufacturer, the concern is for the manufacturing
equipment and process, which, if exposed to leftover paint contaminated
by bacteria, must be thoroughly cleaned and made contaminant-free,
a process which is extremely costly.
About Recycling Leftover Paint_
leftover paint is a highly reusable resource, not a waste product
that must be "recycled" in order to be used again. Therefore,
paint should always be carefully bought in the appropriate quantity,
stored properly, used up, donated and exchanged before recycling
or disposal are even considered.
paint recycling is conducted, it is most effective as a voluntary
activity at the local or regional level. Paint recycling should
remain an activity discussed and agreed upon voluntarily by specific,
participating paint manufacturers and local household hazardous
waste/solid waste professionals.
paint recycling can include:
Blending for Reuse This low-tech option blends leftover
latex paint with virgin materials to yield a new paint with a
recycled content. Leftover paint makes up about 10-20 percent
of the finished product. Bacterial contamination can be a threat;
it is one of the reasons why most paint manufacturers are very
cautious about accepting any leftover paint without extensive
testing. The resulting latex paint is generally intended for exterior
use for anti-graffiti purposes.
Blending for Waste-to-Energy Programs This low-tech
option blends leftover solvent-based paint for use as fuel in
This high-tech recycling typically requires careful quality
control, and involves only latex paint. Solvent-based paint recycling
is less common due to the complexity of the paint materials and
the high cost of handling and recycling compared to other alternatives,
such as waste-to-energy program.