Choose recycled paint
Choosing recycled paint reduces the amount of paint being disposed of, saves raw resources, reduces energy consumption and pollution of paint production, conserves landfill space, saves taxpayer money by cutting costs of local leftover paint collections, and allows a perfectly usable product to be reused. And in case you're wondering, it's often cheaper than buying new.
Find it! Recycled paint
Recycled paint is created in two ways. Reblended (or consolidated) paint is remixed and then screened, and comes in primarily neutral colors. Reprocessed paint, on the other hand, is made with some new material (usually a white base) and is therefore available in a wider variety of hues. Most recycled paint is made with at least 50 percent recycled material (check the can's label for specific recycled content), although some is made with 100 percent secondhand content.
Recycled paint and stain options are becoming easier to find, especially as consumer interest in this eco-friendly option increases. We've listed some recycled brands here, but you can also check Green Seal's certified paint listing for additional options. Alternatively, you can check with your local, county, or state household hazardous waste collection entity to see if they re-sell recycled paint.
Made from the unused portions of recovered domestic paints and stains, they contain only about 1 percent new material. All of their latex paints are durable and washable. They also carry some recycled alkyd paints and stains, as well as some semi-luster interior varnishes.
Chittenden (VT) Solid Waste District recycles a maximum of 60 percent of the latex paint collected through its hazardous waste program. Available at three different sites within Vermont.
Dunn-Edwards was one of the first major paint companies to voluntarily remove the additive ethylene glycol, a hazardous substance and a toxic air contaminant, from its water-based paints. Their RECOVER line is made with at least 50 precent post-consumer material.
Before you buy
Good news! Recycled paint is less expensive than new paint; a gallon often costs less than ten dollars and in some communities recycled paint is even given away. And it's often low- or zero-VOC to boot!
Choosing recycled paint helps you go green because…
- Less paint is wasted as one person's trash becomes another's treasure.
- Fewer resources will be needed to make new paint.
Americans buy a lot of paint. In 2005, more than 850 million gallons of indoor and outdoor paint was sold for use on residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings. A key environmental quandary for paint users is how to handle leftovers. A new US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study estimates that approximately 65 to 69 million gallons or about 10 percent of house paint purchased in the US every year is discarded. Leftover paint is the largest volume material collected by most household hazardous waste collection programs across the country. Managing this paint costs municipalities an average of eight dollars per gallon.
Recycled paint can contain varying percentages of unused paint collected from consumers, excess from the original paint manufacturing, as well as small amounts of new materials (resins and colorants). The two main kinds of recycled paint are reprocessed and consolidated (or reblended). Reprocessed latex paint contains 50-99 percent post-consumer paint that has been sorted by finish, type (interior or exterior), and light or dark colors. It can be used for interior or exterior uses. Consolidated latex paint typically contains 100 percent leftover paint from consumers. It’s been sorted by type of paint, finish, and colors and is often used as an undercoat or for exterior use.
Several companies sell recycled paint regionally and scattered communities sell or give away paint through their household hazardous waste collection centers or solid waste management facilities. The city of Portland, Oregon has been collecting and selling recycled paint since 1992, bringing in 252,000 gallons of paint each year and making 21,000 gallons of recycled paint to sell per month.
Green Seal and the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) developed an environmental standard for recycled paint in 2006. Paint companies must go through testing to gain the Green Seal standard. PSI hopes that as companies meet this standard it will boost the use of recycled paint by convincing people that it can perform just as well as new paint.