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Hits, Misses Seen in Paint Recycling

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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Oregon's booming PaintCare program saved $1 million and reclaimed a million gallons of paint in its first two years, but the project is still causing some confusion among consumers and complaints from some contractors, a new report finds.

The report by the nonprofit Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) coincides with an effort by the American Coatings Association to repeal the “sunset date” of Oregon PaintCare, the nation’s first architectural paint stewardship program. The program, launched in July 2010, is set to expire July 2014.

The Product Stewardship Institute evaluated the performance of PaintCare's first two years and provided recommendations for improvements.


PaintCare operates the country's first architectural paint stewardship program in Oregon.

PSI’s findings were based on surveys of Hazardous Household Waste and recycling program coordinators; architectural paint manufacturers; retailers that serve as collection points; and painting contractors.

The report was conducted at the request of the coatings manufacturers’ trade association and Oregon’s Metro regional government.

Quantity, Savings and Availability

PaintCare processed 469,665 gallons of paint in its first year, the report found. By Year 2, the number had increased nearly 30 percent to 609,471 gallons, PSI said.

In the program's first year, the Portland metropolitan area—the state's largest urban area—reported saving more than $1 million, the report said.

The state's paint-management costs declined by nearly 11 percent between Year 1 ($7.03 per gallon) and year 2 ($6.27 per gallon) of the program, PSI said.

The report also lauded the program's growing availability.

Hazardous Waste Facility

In the first year of PaintCare, Portland’s metropolitan area—the largest urban area in Oregon—reported savings of more than $1 million, the report said.

“Before the PaintCare program launched in June 2010, approximately 65 percent of all Oregon residents lived within 15 miles of a paint collection location," the report said. "By the end of Year 2, that figure grew to just over 94 percent."

Paint retail stores make up 75 percent of the more than 100 collection sites in Oregon, allow consumers and contractors to return paint to the same place they buy it, seven days a week, ACA recently testified to Oregon lawmakers.

Post-Consumer Market Role

The program has also dramatically helped to increase production of recycled latex paint, the report found.

“While it was not specifically meant to aid in the development of the post-consumer market, the program has nonetheless played an influential role,” PSI said.

“In 2011, roughly 57 percent of all latex paint collected by the PaintCare program was used to make recycled-content paint. In 2012, that figure increased to 72 percent."

Mixed Approval Ratings

Overall, the program boasts a "high approval rating," with most participants believing that the program should be made permanent, PSI reported.

“[PaintCare] should be permanent so that buildup of old paint does not happen,” one retailer reported. “It just begs for mishandling of paint without this program.” Seventy-two percent of retailers said they favored making the program  permanent; 13 percent were oppposed; and 10 percent were unsure.

Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste coordinators were also positive, with 86 percent saying the program should be made permanent.

That sentiment was slightly lower for manufacturers and contractors, however. About 65 percent of paint manufacturers (11 of 17) surveyed said the program should be made permanent; 6 percent were opposed; and 29 percent were unsure.

Among painting contractors, 54 percent (15 of 28) said they would like the program to be made permanent. (PSI said that it had difficulty obtaining survey responses from painting contractors and that the response received may not be indicative of the group.)


PSI said that a majority of the stakeholder groups believe the program should be made permanent.

Twenty-five percent of painting contractors were unsure, and about 21 percent said they wanted the program to end.

"The main concern among the painting contractors who responded to the survey is that they are paying for a service that they, themselves, do not use," PSI said.

"This is because painting contractors typically do not have large quantities of leftover paint to dispose of, since they leave it with the client for future use or, because of their expertise, they do not overestimate the amount of paint needed for a job."

Room for Improvement

Challenges remain for the program, including increasing collection sites in rural areas, reducing consumer confusion, and influencing consumer purchasing habits, PSI reported.

Six percent of the population located in more rural areas lives more than 15 miles from a collection location. PSI said expanded recycling options for rural residents should be a priority going forward.

Meanwhile, some consumers remain unclear about how the program operates and which materials it collects. For example, PSI said, some consumers expected a deposit return when they brought back leftover paint.

PaintCare is funded by a special paint assessment fee that is added to the retail price of the paint at the time of purchase. Retailers can determine whether to show this fee on the consumers’ purchase receipt. The fee structure depends on the size of the paint container.


Influencing consumers to buy the correct amount of paint for the job has proved difficult, reported PSI. It recommended increased outreach and education in this area.

PSI recommended that PaintCare officials continue outreach and education to address how the fee works and what types of paints are accepted.

For information about how the program works, click here.

Changing some consumer habits—particularly encouraging consumers to estimate the correct amount of paint—has also proved difficult, PSI found.

PaintCare’s paint calculator is available here.

Future Reporting

PSI also urged PaintCare to improve its reporting by using standardized metrics to ensure accurate evaluation.  

“PaintCare has produced two annual reports to assess its progress against the goals established by the Oregon paint stewardship legislation. However, the type of information reported and the type of metrics used for the reporting were not always consistent,” according to the report.

National Plans

In addition to trying to repeal the "sunset date" set for Oregon's program, ACA and PaintCare leaders are active in a number of other states.

ACA has passed permanent legislation for a PaintCare model program in California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. California operations started in 2012, and Connecticut and Rhode Island are set to begin this year.

“Since the program has proved successful and has functioned appropriately using the product stewardship approach, many state and local governments dealing with leftover paint are interested in bringing the program to their state,” according to the industry association.

Legislation is currently pending in Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, and Texas, and bills are likely to be introduced in Maine, New York, and New Jersey this year, ACA added.


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association; Environmental Protection; Good Technical Practice; Paint disposal; Paint recycling; PaintCare program; Painters; Product Stewardship Institute

Comment from Catherine Brooks, (4/10/2013, 3:09 PM)

This program is a model for recycling of construction materials. It is refreshing that 65% of the manufacturers of paint products endorse the paint program. While the sample surveyed was small, the results are strong to continue this program and encourage other states to adopt it. Then we can start tackling the other construction waste filling on-site dumpsters.

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