The state of Illinois’ Household Hazardous Waste Program works with local governments to divert residential waste materials with hazardous characteristics out of local solid waste landfills.
At every collection, in every part of the state, paint is the most common material delivered by Illinois citizens. Encouragement to use up leftover paint or give usable paint to a neighbor has not decreased the amount of latex paint significantly.
The latex (water-based) paints have a very low level of toxicity. Disposing of it at a household hazardous waste collection day is very expensive. Therefore, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency encourages people with unwanted latex paint to use other options.
After your painting job is done you may have some leftover paint. The question now is: “What should you do with it?” Here are some alternatives:
This may sound simple, and it is. What better place to put that last pint or so of paint but right up there on the wall where it blends in perfectly with all the other paint you just put up there. Sure, it’s a little extra work —and right when you thought you’re done for the day — but you’ll be rid of that extra paint for good. Simply let the can dry and then recycle or dispose of it.
Paint something else
It doesn’t even have to need the paint. Use an old piece of cardboard, some scrap lumber, or the inside of your garage. Just about anywhere would probably work to use up that last bit of paint. Again, let the can dry and recycle or dispose of it.
Use an absorbent
Kitty litter, sawdust, shredded paper or just about anything else that will absorb moisture and let the paint dry out should work here. Depending on how full the can is, you can just add the absorbent to the can and mix it up. When the liquids are absorbed, dry the mixture out or dispose of it directly. You may be able to empty the can, dry it out, and recycle it.
Give it to someone
Look around and you may find somebody who needs to paint a small area. Some schools or local theatres will take some small amounts of paint for scenery.
Store it for later
Everyone has good intentions to use half-filled paint cans for “touch-ups” that never come. Also, many people have saved paint that becomes unusable over time before it’s called into action. If you do save your paint for later, follow some easy tips to make the paint last longer. Just cover the opening with plastic wrap, and make sure the lid fits securely so the paint doesn’t leak. Then turn the paint can upside down. This creates a tight seal, and keeps the paint fresh to use again.