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Painting It: Paint and Materials Recycling

When a job is completed, what do you do with what’s left over?


To save money, many choose to throw everything away, or to store it. Neither is beneficial to the environment or your bottom line. Chemicals including paints, solvents and oil products can be expensive to dispose of.  Or, to store safely.


Proper recycling means these items are delivered to a special place.


One such place, Safety Clean, makes it their business to render these products benign to the environment. The company either converts them chemically. Or, they put them in a self-storage unit, in a specifically- designed safety container system. The down side is that it costs the person delivering the product.


In some cases, such as with solvents, they are often filtered and sold for reuse.


How about the average painter in the field? What can he do?


Enough painters, when through with a job, take their unused paint and materials home with them. They think to themselves: I may be able to use this gallon of paint somewhere. Or, they tell themselves, “ I can’t take the time to dispose of it properly.”


These are your main options. Some come with a big cost; others not so much.


  1. Use a partially filled container of material, which is at risk of leaking. Fill the container with sand. Then, mix until it has the consistency of concrete. No cost, except for sand.
  2. Dirty solvents stored in a contained may also be filled with sand to absorb the liquid.
  3. To prevent materials from entering the ground surface water, burn them in a metal drum. Use charcoal to ignite. The downside: Burning chemicals releases toxic smoke into the air.
  4. Note: I would attempt this only in the country where neighbors won’t be offended. And, hopefully, the pollutants have more room to dissipate.


Practical Use Recycling


Think of it as a resource for reuse. Paints come in all sorts of various types. They vary in their chemical make-up, and in their degree of impact to the environment.


Putting a paint to use after its initial use is something that is not usually thought of.


A list of possible uses for left over paint and finishing products:


  1. Left over oil-based primers can be mixed together for use as a prime coat for larger projects. Example: metal roofs, structural steel, and sheet metal sided buildings.
  2. Latex top coats may be mixed together to apply as a first coat on drywall surfaces.
  3. Latex primers can be reused on consecutive, unrelated projects on multi surfaces.
  4. Stains may be used to tint other stains and even oil based paints.
  5. Polyurethanes/Varnishes can be used on new wood projects. Here, place them through a strainer and thin with the appropriate solvent to replace what has evaporated.
  6. Epoxy/Urethane material may be reused if the catalyst has not been contaminated, or each component not over heated.
  7. Dirty solvents can be reused if properly filtered. Example: Mineral spirits, lacquer thinner can be reused if properly filtered.


The keys to recycling? Know your products. Know what you’re doing. And, always play it safe!



Responsible recycling benefits everyone’s environment – and lives!



Thanks, everyone, for those insightful and honest e-mails sent during the Christmas holidays.

And, many thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”


Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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