As part of an agreement signed or endorsed by 45 state and local governments, the paint industry association, a major retailer, the association of painting contractors, and others, representatives have announced a plan to reduce the environmental impacts and cost of managing leftover latex and oil-based paint. Participants in the year-long dialogue agreed to implement 11 projects, at a cost of $1.2 million, to be implemented over the next 18 months that will provide information necessary for the development of a nationally coordinated leftover paint management system. To date, nearly $800,000 has been committed to initiate the projects and to continue the national dialogue for the next two years.

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), a national non-profit organization, initiated the dialogue on leftover paint in 2003 in response to concerns expressed by state and local government officials about paint's high volume in the waste stream, potential to impact human health and the environment, substantial costs to manage, and potential for increased reduction, recovery, reuse, and recycling. PSI estimates the cost to manage leftover paint on a national level to be over $275 million per year.

"This agreement represents a major milestone in an earnest quest to reduce paint waste, develop recycling markets, and find better ways to manage what is left over from a typical paint job," says Scott Cassel, PSI executive director. "All those with a stake in the outcome have agreed to take significant steps that will ease the financial burden to properly manage waste paint."

The National Paint and Coatings Association's (NPCA's) Board of Directors recently voted to continue its participation in the dialogue and support the research agenda by funding four projects targeting consumer education, paint reuse, a life cycle cost/benefit assessment of managing leftover paint, and the promotion of health, safety, and environmental compliance for recycled and virgin paint products. NPCA represents over 90 percent of the paint and coatings manufacturers in the United States.

"The specific focus of these projects also reflects NPCA's long-standing commitment to consumer education and environmental responsibility on the issue," says Andrew Doyle, NPCA president. "NPCA and its member companies are committed to identifying the best possible solutions to the challenge of post-consumer paint."

State environmental agency officials were active participants in the dialogue. "Like many states across the country, Massachusetts has scaled back its recycling and special waste programs owning to budget cuts," says Arlene O'Donnell, deputy commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. "This national product stewardship initiative holds promise for states seeking economically viable alternatives to manage paint waste in partnership with industry."