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I have been reading, writing and editing articles about the coatings industry for many years, but it wasn’t until last March that I was faced with my first paint dilemma. A weekend painting job ended with a half-full can of paint that I didn’t know what to do with. Our city’s refuse and recycling center offered good information on how to dispose of or recycle empty paint cans, however there was no option for leftover paint, other than to check with local theater groups, schools and churches to see if they might take it as a donation. So down to the basement it went.

After doing some research online, I discovered that I was not alone in my predicament. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s website, “An estimated 10 percent of the more than 750 million gallons of architectural paint sold each year in the United States is unused.” Leftover paint can be captured for reuse, recycling, energy recovery or safe disposal. And old paint cans are recycled as well.

Many communities do offer paint reuse, recycling or disposal services, however these are mostly local, countywide programs. It looks like the issue has taken hold on a larger, state-wide scale now. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has approved a plan that sets in motion the first paint product stewardship “take-back” program in the nation. The PaintCare program, which officially began July 1 and is funded by paint manufacturers, allows consumers to return unused paint to participating retailers and other sites for proper disposal. The pilot program is expected to collect as much as 600,000 gallons of leftover paint annually in Oregon and is expected to be rolled out nationally.

The American Coatings Association created the non-profit organization PaintCare to administer the program. Consumers will pay for the program by paying a surcharge on paint and stain containers. PaintCare, in turn, will provide a series of depots statewide where people can drop off unused paint. PaintCare pays an administrative fee to DEQ on behalf of manufacturers for plan approval and program enforcement/oversight.

The complete, approved Oregon Paint Stewardship Pilot Program Plan is available at www.deq.state.or.us/lq/sw/prodstewardship/paint.htm. The page also lists participating retailers and brands in the PaintCare program. Manufacturers of covered products may not sell their product in Oregon unless they are participating in the PaintCare program.

For those of us not in Oregon, there is another source to turn to – Earth911. What started as a hotline for recycling has grown into a tremendous resource for staying plugged in to the green scene. At www.Earth911.com, you will find news, articles, ideas and business solutions for reducing your impact on the environment. One such resource is a database with over 100,000 recycling locations across the country. Simply enter the type of product you wish to recycle and your zip code, and you are given a list of all of the facilities or programs that recycle that product within a 30-mile radius of your location, as well as a map of each site and options for curb-side pickup.

It is great to see the groundwork being laid to help consumers find an easy way to solve the leftover paint issue. The more hassle-free it becomes, the more people will stop sneaking half-full paint cans into their garbage cans or storing old cans in their basements for years on end.