Where to Dispose of Paint Without Repercussions

So What’s The Problem?

It’s an age old problem that has persisted throughout the generations, what on earth do we do with old paint that is no longer needed. We all have it, the unused paint tins that sit around in the garage for 10 years or so. In fact, when I moved into my current house that my wife and I bought, we inherited 20-odd paint tins! Fairly rude I thought, but I suppose the previous owners also had this problem and didn’t know where to dispose of paint in the correct manner.

Unfortunately, many of us put our heads in the sand and just store unused paint in a corner of the garage or garden shed.This is in the hope that the problem of disposing of it, will disappear. Sometimes we think that it can be used at a later date, but I can almost bet that 90% of the time, we’ll go out and purchase new paint for the next job. What’s the chances of using the exact same color the next time? Only if your matching colors or repainting an original room color, will you use what you already have.

What People Do With Unused Paint

There’s a few myths out there that people follow with regards to disposing of their paint. One of these myths is that if you bury the paint, it will be fine because nobody is going to dig it up. If you thought this was a good idea, think again. Different paints will affect the environment in different ways. Note that oil based paints, thinners or varnishes are generally considered hazardous waste.

You will have nearby trees that can be affected by the chemicals and solvents found in paints. You’ll find that relatively simple solvents which you’d expect would evaporate or break down over time, can contaminate the water table for years to come. So the advice from your local authority is to never bury unused paint.

Another common practice of disposing paint is to wrap it up in newspaper and put it in the garbage waste. This is fine for mall amounts of paint that can be dried in the newspaper with a couple of hours. It can then be placed in the general waste. Do not add any paper with paint into the recycling waste. The reason for this, is because once the fibres in paper gets wet, the paper mills cannot recycle it.

So what else to people do with unused paint? Well, you may not believe this, but some fools tip it down the drain hoping all their problems will go away. Very smart hey! For the same reason paint cannot be buried, it contains hazardous chemicals and toxins which can be so harmful to our waterways, wildlife and other environmental impacts. Some of our drainage is directed to water treatment plants, others to outfall areas which end up in the ocean. So no, it’s not okay to dispose of paint down the drain.

Where to Dispose of Paint water

What Happens When You Don’t Dispose Correctly?

As previously mentioned, the environmental aspects can be hugely affected. Did you know that even flecks of paint that come off boats can impact our oceans. Microscopic fragments of paint and fibreglass from boat decks can cause a danger risk to small sea creatures.

Chemicals and solvents in paint can disperse dangerous vapours that contaminate the environment including trees, shrubs, fauna and flora. Burying paint in the ground is not much better then filling the ocean with paint. Dispose of paint the correct way.

Here’s what you do.


You really need to know how to dispose of paint correctly and the solution is to find a local sustainability centre that specialises in waste treatment by sorting into water based or solvent paints for further processing. Did you know that solvent paints can be used for energy recovery? So it’s worth doing the right thing.

Here’s a list of websites that can help in each country.

United States:

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Enviro Systems




United Kingdom


Community RePaint





I hope you’ve gained some knowledge from this article and will help our environment by disposing of your paint in the correct manner. Everyone’s looking for shortcuts but this is one shortcut you don’t want to get wrong.

Disposing of paint properly also helps out all our animals in our waterways, so do the right thing.

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