Proper Disposal of Extra Paint & Paint Containers

Disposing of paint is always a chore and now that you’ve spent the warmer days of autumn getting to all those paint projects you meant to do all summer, your garage, basement, or shed probably looks an awful lot like the photo above. (That’s my personal stash of used and empty paint containers from three years worth of projects and reno.)
But what’s a responsible DIY’er to do with so much potential waste? If you have a septic system, paint disposal is of a particular concern so as not to disrupt the delicate bacterial balance within the tank. Never fear, we have the solutions to all of your paint container disposal questions.

Paint Cans
Did you know that paint is no longer considered a hazardous material in most areas? Oil-based paint (which is now banned in some areas, such as Ohio) was the basis for this common-knowledge idea, but the newer water- and latex-based varieties are far easier to dispose of. If you have a wee bit of leftover paint in your can, throw some sand or kitty litter in it to absorb the extra fluid, then leave the can open for about a day to let it dry out and harden. Remove the hardened paint into a trash bag and toss — and now your can is ready for the recycling! Just make sure you leave the original label on the can to alert your waste management organization to its non-hazardous contents.
Beware, though: most municipalities won’t take containers over five gallons, so if you have more paint than that, or oil-based paint, contact your local waste management district for your area’s procedures.
Aerosol Cans
I love a good spray paint. But what do you do once you empty that container of its colorful contents? If the can is completely empty, you can simply remove the plastic nozzle and toss in the recycling. If the can isn’t empty, however, follow the instructions on the can to properly discharge the contents to prepare it for disposal.
Extra Paint
What’s the most efficient way to dispose of extra paint? Why donate it, of course! Organizations like Habitat for Humanity, as well as many thrift stores and charities, will take unopened or barely-used paint and sell it for pennies on the dollar. So if you’re confident you won’t need the excess paint for any future projects, pass it along to someone else who could put it to good use.
If you have less than half of a full container and want to reduce the mess and clutter but don’t want to waste the paint, try buying smaller containers at your local home improvement store and transferring the paint. Old (and very clean) peanut butter jars work extremely well, too. Just make sure to label the type and shade of paint for future reference.
Do you have any creative ways of discarding old paint or paint containers? Or ways you reuse the paint or cans so nothing goes to waste? Let us know in the comments!

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