Latex paint is a household hazardous waste. Commonly called "water-based" paint, it includes such resins as acrylics, vinyls, and epoxies, among others. In addition to the resins, latex paint is made up of solvents, pigments, and additives. Latex paint is easily applied and can be cleaned with soap and water. It is also less detrimental to our environment than oil-based paints because it contains fewer hazardous materials.
Latex paint is the most popular paint on the market. It is preferred by most do-it-yourselfers because it is easier to use and to clean. If, however, the liquid paint is poured down a drain, in a storm sewer, or disposed in regular trash pick-up, it can pose serious environmental problems.
There are several things that can be done to help ensure the proper purchase, use, and disposal of latex paint.
Calculate the amount needed to finish a project and purchase only that amount.
The easiest, safest, and best way to dispose latex paint is to use it up. If this is not possible, give the excess paint to friends, relatives, churches, theatrical groups, high schools, recreation departments, or community service organizations. Give away only paint that is of good quality in its original container with the label intact. Additionally, some communities may sponsor annual, semi-annual, or monthly events known as "paint swaps" where paint may be taken for other community members and/or organization to take and use.
If you are unable to give the usable paint away, find out if your community accepts paint in a household hazardous waste collection program.
Liquid latex paint should not be placed in landfills. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LA DEQ) considers it permissible to mix small amounts of latex paint with an absorbent (i.e. kitty litter or dirt) and dispose it in a sanitary landfill. Additionally, you can dispose hardened/dried-out paint in a landfill. Leftover latex paint can be dried by removing the lid and allowing the paint to air dry. Be certain that the drying occurs in a location protected from children and pets. The LA DEQ, however, does NOT recommend using this method for any can of paint that is more than one-quarter full. Empty paint cans and those containing dried paint can be safely disposed with municipal trash.
LA DEQ recommends that OLDER latex paint, IMPROPERLY LABELED paint, latex paint that is NOT IN ITS ORIGINAL CONTAINER, potentially CONTAMINATED paint, and any other paint that cannot be disposed properly be stored safely and taken to a household hazardous waste collection event or facility.
A John Hopkins University study found 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens that may be present in oil-based paint. The hazardous chemicals can be found in each of the four basic components that make up oil-based paint: resins, solvents, pigments, and additives. While these same components also make up latex paint, the types used in oil-based paint are considerably more hazardous.
Oil-based paint is a hazardous waste. The toxic, dangerous chemicals used in the production of oil-based paint can pose serious threats to human health and the environment. If oil-based paint is thrown into the trash and ends up in a sanitary landfill, there is a potential health hazard of the chemicals seeping into the groundwater and being consumed by people or animals. Additionally, since oil-based paint is flammable, refuse workers may be injured and equipment may be damaged during trash collection.
Since oil-based paint should not be disposed in a landfill, consider these alternatives:
Buy latex or water-based paint. They are made of less hazardous ingredients.
If you must use oil-based paint, buy only the quantity you need. Measure the space to be painted and ask the retailer for assistance.
Reuse/recycle leftover paint by giving it to someone who can use it.
- If there is no liquid left in the paint can, it is safe to throw it into the trash. LA DEQ does not, however, recommend removing the lid of the can and allowing the paint to evaporate due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in the paint.
- Take leftover oil-based paint to a household hazardous waste collection facility or event.