Household Hazardous Waste

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Paint is a common household product. Leftover paint can become a household hazardous waste. Paint contains chemicals, such as solvents and metals, that can damage the environment-especially our water supplies-and endanger human health if not disposed of properly.

  • Pour paint down the drain. Many of the chemicals in paint may not be treated by sewage treatment plants or septic systems. The untreated chemicals may be discharged to rivers and streams and contaminate these waters. Fish, wildlife, plants, and animals can be adversely affected.
  • Throw paint in the trash in liquid form. Eventually, most household trash is compacted, releasing the paint from the can. This causes problems in sanitary disposal trucks. Additionally, Iowa regulations prohibit the landfill disposal of any liquids. Liquids, including paint, seep down through the garbage, mixing with rainwater and other liquids to form a leachate which may eventually contaminate groundwater. Groundwater is Iowa's major source of drinking water.
  • Make environmentally responsible choices.
  • Choose water-based (latex) paints instead of oil-based whenever possible.
  • Choose non-aerosol paints instead of spray paints.
  • Buy only the amount of paint you need for a project.
  • Properly store paint so it remains usable.
  • Give unused paint to someone else who can use it (a neighbor, community theater group, low income agency, etc.).
How to dispose of unusable paint:
  • Completely dried and hardened paint can be put in the trash. Leave lids off cans so disposal workers will know the paint is dried out.
  • Liquid paint needs to be dried out in an area with adequate ventilation (preferably outside). Do not have children or pets in the area. Be very careful not to inhale fumes.
  • Smaller quantities can be dried by removing the lid and allowing the liquids in the can to evaporate. Stir occasionally to hasten the evaporation.
  • Larger quantities can be poured in layers (about one-half inch thick) in a cardboard box lined with plastic or newspaper. Repeat as necessary.
  • For paint that has separated and cannot be mixed, pour off the clear liquids on top, leaving a semi-solid paint sludge in the can to dry. Pour the liquid into a cardboard box lined with plastic and mix with an equal amount of absorbent materials (such as clay-based cat litter). The end product should be similar in texture to the absorbent.

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