Green Living: Clearing Out Old Paint

There is no away when it comes to our trash. There’s only “not here.”

After Tropical Storm Irene gifted my basement with water, it was finally time to properly dispose of the dozen, rusty half-empty and full latex paint cans that have bugged me for years.

Some of these gallons came with the house. Others remained after house-painting and DIY projects. After sorting and separating the soggy cans, I kept a few for touch-ups and resolved to pitch the rest.

A greener life for me includes reducing the amount of chemicals in my home. As someone who is concerned with the environment and how we deal with trash, it was important to me to deal with these cans responsibly and in an earth friendly way.

Sometimes I’m willing to go the long way for greener choices—like composting. Sometimes I want the problem fixed fast. I know I could give away the paint cans via freecycle or facebook, but I really just wanted them gone.

Latex paint can be put out in regular household trash collection only if the paint is completely dry and solid. Liquid paint is not acceptable for household pick up because spilled paint creates a huge mess inside the garbage trucks. As well, liquid paint can spill onto roadways and contaminate local water sources.

So, how to dry out the paint, short of using it? A Google search turned up the suggestion to mix in highly absorbent clay-based cat litter.

Not being a cat owner, I was happy to learn that 20 pounds of generic brand cat litter cost a very affordable $4. I added cat litter to each half-empty paint can a pint at a time and stirred until the slurry reached oatmeal consistency. A day in the sun completely hardened the lumpy mixture.

For the full cans, I was stumped about how to handle them without making a big mess.

A little research turned up that local paint store Rossi and Co. in Orange accepts latex paint for a $2 per gallon disposal fee.

To the best of my knowledge, Rossi and Co. is the only Essex County business offering this service to residential consumers. This solution satisfies all my criteria for a green solution—it’s convenient, affordable, and keeps usable paint and recyclable metals out of the trash.Hat’s off to Rossi and Co. for a valuable, green-minded service.

Don’t let your comfort be another’s burden.

—Recycling slogan from a Brazilian movie theater