Paint with a (Re-)Purpose


“It’s the Goldilocks problem,” jokes Paul Fresina, communications director of PaintCare Inc. When it comes to buying paint, he says, “We’re looking for ‘just right,’ but sometimes we buy too little, and sometimes we buy too much.” PaintCare exists to address the latter predicament.

As a liquid, paint cannot go into normal household waste bins. Excess paint after a home improvement project either clutters up the garage or requires a special trip to a hazardous waste center. PaintCare offers a third option: stop by a local drop-off location so your leftover paint can be recycled or re-purposed.

PaintCare came to California in 2012, two years after the Golden State passed paint stewardship legislation. This legislation essentially promotes responsible disposal of paint for health and environmental reasons, and recycling or re-purposing leftover paint maximizes the usefulness of the resources that compose paint.

Once collected from drop-off centers, oil-based paint goes to cement factories, where the oil contributes to the fuel needed to process calcium carbonate into cement. Though the factories cannot run on the oil from paint alone, this recycled oil supplements the fuel required for operation. Latex paint, meanwhile, simply becomes paint for a new project. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity partner with PaintCare and re-sell paint donated in great enough quality and quantity.

Alternatively, processing plants throughout the country can combine, refine, and remix leftovers into new paint. In California alone, PaintCare collected and processed more than 2.7 million gallons of postconsumer paint and recycled approximately 1,679 tons of plastic and metal paint cans during 2015, according to’s website.

Only unspoiled paint can be used in the recycling process, however. For this reason, PaintCare encourages people to store paint indoors, where it will not freeze or get wet. Water can rust paint cans, tainting the paint itself with rust and exposing it to mold.

With over 750 drop-off locations in California, North State residents with leftover paint now have easier disposal options. To find a receiving site near you, check out the drop-off locator on

As Fresina emphasizes, the “best plan is to buy the right amount in the first place.” Though easier said than done, paint prices make this extra bit of planning worthwhile; new paint easily costs $25-$50 per gallon. Paintcare recommends measuring project dimensions and bringing this information to the paint retailer, who can help gauge the quantity you need; not too much, not too little, but “just right.”

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

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