The Problem: Volume, Cost, Waste, Toxicity

Leftover consumer paint is a high volume, costly, and wasted resource. Oil base paint is highly toxic and can have detrimental health and environmental impacts:

Volume: An estimated 64 million gallons of leftover consumer paint was generated in the U.S. in 2000.

Cost: The Paint Product Stewardship Initiative (PPSI) has estimated the cost for local governments to manage leftover consumer paint averages approximately $8 per gallon.

Waste: Due to the high cost of managing leftover paint, some local governments have decided to not accept latex paint, which makes up 70-80% of leftover paint. Leftover paint is a resource that still has value when made into recycled-content paint (RCP) – which reduces the amount of raw materials that need to be extracted and processed to manufacture new virgin paint.

Toxicity: Oil-based paints are highly toxic and can harm fish and wildlife, as well as pollute groundwater if dumped on the ground. If used in closed areas, volatile organic compounds in paints can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs and cause headaches and nausea. They can also contribute to asthma, other respiratory problems, muscle weakness, and liver and kidney damage. Latex paints are less toxic and not considered hazardous, but excess paint should not be poured down the drain.

Product Stewardship Solutions
Paint manufacturers, retailers, and others can work together to reduce the amount of unwanted paint and manage leftover paint properly.

Paint Take Back Programs: Manufacturers can set up statewide "take-back" locations to collect unwanted paint and increase the recycling rate of paint where possible. Local and state governments can help to publicize these programs.

Legislation:  There are several states that have enacted product stewardship legislation for paint in the U.S. and many provinces in Canada. Typically, the paint manufacturer finances and provides the take back program via a product stewardship organization such as PaintCare. An "assessment" is included in the price of the product that the consumer pays when they buy their paint. The manufacturer is responsible for meeting specific performance goals such as providing convenient, accessible collection locations throughout the state. Local and state governments help to publicize the program while retailers and consumers take an active role in ensuring that paint is properly recycled.

Design: Manufacturers can improve the design of paint by reducing the toxic components and volatile organic compounds contained in paint.

Market Development: To effectively close the loop on recycling paint, there needs to be significant market demand for the recycled paint at a price that supports the recycling system plus reasonable profit. Manufacturers and retailers can advertise and sell recycled paint in their retail stores.

Illinois Paint Stewardship:  Illinois could gain financial benefits of $17 million annually on the collection and management of nearly 2.2 million gallons of leftover paint every year. This cost typically represents 50% of municipal household hazardous waste budgets.  Illinois has a unique opportunity to enact paint stewardship legislation in partnership with the paint industry.  This opportunity to work together to save money for Illinois' state and local governments is the result of a national, multi-stakeholder agreement facilitated by the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).  A statewide paint stewardship program would mean that the paint industry would be responsible for collecting and managing leftover paint in Illinois, reducing the role of government and the burden on taxpayers. 

Benefits of paint stewardship in Illinois would include the following:

  • Reduced government cost;
  • More recycling opportunities;
  • Green sector jobs - more in-state jobs would be created in the paint industry;
  • Less disposal, more recycling - more paint would be diverted from disposal facilities and recycled, which helps the State reach its recycling goal; and
  • Less waste - the industry would educate the public to buy the right amount of paint for a project and reduce waste