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Unused paint can be hazardous to the environment. Here's how to recycle it.

PaintCare is a nonprofit that makes recycling paint easy, convenient and free. It’s available all across D.C.

WASHINGTON — If you're doing some fall cleaning and come across unused paint, you don't want to just toss it in the trash and risk it ending up in a landfill. Leftover paint can be hazardous to the environment, so making sure it gets in the right hands is important.

It's estimated that as much as 85 million gallons of paint go to waste each year. That's where PaintCare comes in. PaintCare is a nonprofit organization that makes recycling paint easy and convenient. It's free and available all across D.C.

“We were set up by the paint manufacturers to create a system for collecting leftover paint, managing that waste product downstream after the user has used it, but has a little leftover," said Brett Rodgers with PaintCare. "So we set up drop off sites in the places where we operate so you can recycle your leftover paint.”

There are nine locations across D.C., including W.S. Jenks and Son in Northeast D.C.

“Customers will bring their paint that they're disposing of to our facility, we'll check it over make sure it meets all the requirements that PaintCare gives out,” said Jenks General Manager Mike Siegel. 

Siegel said offering the service has even brought in new customers to W.S. Jenks and Son. According to its website, the store was first established in 1866 and has been visited by two presidents.

“I can't tell you how many times somebody's coming here to drop off paint and said, 'I never knew you existed.'  And they become customers after that," Siegel said. "So it does have like some actual value outside of the service that we're providing it also, it gives us a new path for customer acquisition."

Since PaintCare started operating in D.C. back in 2019, it has collected 226,000 gallons of paint. But what happens after it's collected?

“The paint can go to recyclers who can turn it back into new paint products, they can use the oil based paint for fuels, they can reuse paint as-is in some cases, and put it to other uses as well as minimize the amount going to the landfill,” Rodgers said.

Paint collected in D.C. goes to a local processor in Abingdon, Virginia.

"That processor is a latex pain recycler who can then screen it together to form our recycled-content paint most often. Again, there are some other uses like cement products, concrete mixes, fuels, fuel additives," Rodgers said.

PaintCare is funded by a fee which is applied to the purchase price of new paint sold in each state that has passed a paint stewardship law. 

While most paint products are accepted through PaintCare, things like spray paint, glue and compounds are not. For a full list of what you can drop off, click here.

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