Leftover paint is a common part of most building/painting projects and its disposal is usually thought of as an inconvenient task at the end of the job. In the past – and unfortunately into the present – tipping paint down the laundry tub, down the toilet, into the drain in the street, or into a corner of the garden were/are common solutions.

As awareness has grown of the need to reduce the flow of potentially toxic waste into our natural water systems and environment generally, these disposal methods have become and clearly are unacceptable.

A clean out of the old shed also has its problems as many older paints contained heavy metals, lead and other hazardous materials, potentially toxic to both humans and our environment.

What is a solution?

The first step is to look at reducing wasted paint in the first place, then following a few steps to dispose of the leftovers safely.

  1. Minimise potential waste before you start
    Don’t buy more than you need. Do an overall measure-up of the area to be painted & get advice from the paint supplier about how much you’ll need. Tinting procedures mean you can easily buy some more.
  2. Use safe brush-cleaning methods
    Don’t clean brushes under a running tap either inside or in the garden, as the toxins find their way to our soils and watercourses. Wash brushes in a labelled container and keep the liquid for a few days in a secure place. After a few days the solid particles will settle to the bottom.For water-based paints the liquid is then safe to dispose of and solids can be wrapped and placed in the household garbage. For oil-based paints, place in a secure container in a safe place and retain for re-use, or dispose of at a waste disposal facility.
  3. Using left over paint
    It is a good idea to keep a small amount of paint in a sealed container for later touch-ups. Rather than throwing away excess paint, consider getting your paint supplier to tint it to a different colour and use it to paint something else.To get rid of small amounts of paint that cannot be used, pour it onto absorbent material such as shredded paper or kitty litter, allow it to dry and dispose of in the garbage.
  4. Disposing of new and old paint containers and larger amounts of paint
    Contact your local council for details of disposal centres. Many councils now make waste transfer facilities available or have collection services for toxic materials. If you have aerosol cans, empty these by spraying into an old cardboard box. Never attempt to puncture or incinerate them. Don’t put any of these items in your household rubbish.
  5. The Rule to Remember
    The rule to remember for clearing clutter in a house is usually, ‘if in doubt, throw it out’. The rule to remember for potentially hazardous waste is, if in doubt, DON’T throw it out.When thinking of disposing of potentially hazardous waste, contact your local council first for advice about disposal services in your area.