CA PaintCare: 1 Year, 632K Gallons


California’s paint recycling program marked its first birthday Saturday (Oct. 19) with hundreds of thousands of gallons of paint reused; tons of paint cans recycled; and a few operational wrinkles to iron out.

California PaintCare established 495 paint drop-off sites; collected and processed 632,652 gallons of paint; and recycled 363 tons of plastic and metal paint cans between Oct. 17, 2012, and June 30, 2013, according to the organization's Year 1 Annual Report, submitted Oct. 1 to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

"[B]y all accounts, the first year has been a great success," reported the American Coatings Association, which developed the model for the PaintCare stewardship program for architectural paint and coatings. ACA represents U.S. paint and coating manufacturers.

ACA’s California PaintCare program is the second and largest program of its kind following ACA’s three-year-old pilot program in Oregon, which was made permanent by legislation passed earlier this year. The program launched July 1 in Connecticut and will be rolled out next in Rhode Island, Vermont and Minnesota.

How it Works

The California Architectural Paint Stewardship Program was signed into law Sept. 28, 2010. The statute requires architectural paint manufacturers to develop and implement a program to reduce, reuse, recycle, and properly manage post-consumer architectural paint in the state.

As in other states, ACA's PaintCare, a 501(c)(3) organization, has been the industry-approved vehicle for the law in California.

PaintCare disposition
CA PaintCare Year 1 Annual Report

About 7 percent of the 632,652 gallons of postconsumer architectural paint collected during the period has not yet been processed and is not included in the report.


  • Develops and implements strategies to reduce the generation of post-consumer architectural paint;
  • Promotes the reuse of post-consumer architectural paint; and
  • Provides for the collection, transportation, and processing of post-consumer architectural paint using the hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, and proper disposal.
The take-back program is funded through an assessment (the PaintCare Recovery Fee) on the purchase of new paint sold in California. Fees range from 35 cents to $1.60 per container, depending on the size.
California PaintCare reported about $20 million in revenues and $9.3 million in expenses the first year. Surpluses are plowed back into the program.
PaintCare uses the fees to pay for all aspects of the program, including the transportation of leftover paint from  drop-off sites to processors for recycling and energy recovery, administration, and educational activities.
Fact sheets for California Trade Painters and Paint Retailers offer more information to those participants.
Challenges and Lessons
The California report details the operational aspects of the program’s first year, including collection infrastructure, volume and disposition of paint collected, program costs, and education and outreach activities.
CA PaintCare reuse
CA PaintCare Year 1 Annual Report

The volume of paint processed into non-paint materials is combined with the category of beneficial reuse.

While focusing on the program's successes, California PaintCare officials also reported a few first-year kinks, "which are to be expected for a shift from a publicly funded waste management program to a stewardship program managed by industry," the report said.
It noted several examples.
Hazardous Materials Storage Requirements. "Local rules for hazardous materials storage volumes (and reporting) varied from county to county, and sometimes from city to city within a county," the report noted.
Many oversight agencies require a Hazardous Materials Business Plan (HMBP) with annual fees ranging from $80 to $1,000 when a retailer stores 55 gallons or more of post-consumer paint onsite.
"This was a barrier to retail participation as a drop-off site, particularly for independently owned stores, both because of the cost and because of the additional oversight to which they would be subjected," the report said.
PaintCare said it would work with government agencies to "create a more accommodating and consistent interpretation of the state rules addressing HMBP requirements."
Retail Storage Space. Limited storage space forced many retailers to turn away donations—sometimes after just one or two days of collection—until their recycling bin was picked up and replaced. PaintCare said the program would focus future expansion efforts on retail sites that could store larger amounts.
PaintCare Large Volume Pickup
California PaintCare

Some retailers filled their donation bins in a day or two, forcing them to turn away additional paint drop-offs until the bins could be collected.

The program aims to establish 750 drop-off sites by the end of the second year.

Partnering with Household Hazardous Waste Programs. Coalitions of local governments tried to negotiate multi-jurisdictional contracts with PaintCare, but were stymied by the "great variety of operational and contracting needs of the state's household hazardous waste (HHW) programs. This resulted in multiple individual contract negotiations."

The program said it would work with the diverse HHW programs "to find solutions to accommodate each jurisdiction’s unique need."

Lack of Support and Awareness. The program said it had also been "surprised to learn that not every local government program was familiar with, or supported, the concept of product stewardship, and not every jurisdiction was concerned about reducing its HHW program costs or having paint costs covered by PaintCare."
CA PaintCare financial
CA PaintCare Year 1 Annual Report

PaintCare is funded by a surcharge on each paint purchase. Surpluses are reinvested in the program.

PaintCare said it would increase its outreach efforts, "emphasizing that the program is run by the paint manufacturing industry and that it is funded by a fee applied to the product price rather than a state tax, a deposit, or an advanced disposal fee."

Millions of Gallons

ACA says the PaintCare program "will result in the proper management of millions of gallons of leftover paint each year."

"Government programs that partner with PaintCare are realizing a direct financial savings as PaintCare covers the cost of paint transportation and recycling from their programs," the program says.

For more information, email PaintCare Executive Director Marjaneh Zarrehparvar or call (202) 719-3683.


Tagged categories: Adaptive reuse; American Coatings Association (ACA); Architectural coatings; Beneficial reuse; Coatings manufacturers; Coatings Technology; Paint recycling; PaintCare program

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