How to Dispose of Paint

Blue paint on a roller

Paint is an essential material for various applications, from adding colour and protecting surfaces to enhancing aesthetics.

However, its disposal can be a tricky subject due to potential environmental and health risks associated with certain types of paint.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the different types of paint, common mistakes in disposal, the harm improper disposal can cause, safe disposal methods, recycling options, transportation for disposal in the UK, and the role of manufacturers in providing guidelines for responsible disposal.

Types of Paint

Understanding the types of paint is crucial for proper disposal. Paints primarily fall into two categories: oil-based and water-based.

The 3 most common types of paint that we will be covering are oil-based, water-based, and latex-based.

Disposing of Oil-Based Paints

  • Oil-based paints use oil, usually linseed or soya oil, as their base.

  • They contain hazardous chemicals such as lead, solvents, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

  • Oil-based paints require specific disposal methods due to their toxicity and environmental impact.

How to dispose of Oil-Based Paint

Disposing of oil-based paint requires careful consideration due to its potentially harmful properties.

Oil-based paints contain solvents and hazardous materials that can be detrimental to the environment and human health if not disposed of properly.

Safe Disposal of Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paint is classified as household hazardous waste due to its composition of chemicals that can pollute water sources and pose harm if improperly disposed of.

It’s critical to never pour oil-based paint into the trash or down the drain.

Here’s a detailed guide on the safe disposal of oil-based paint and related questions:

  • Avoid Common Mistakes
    • Oil-based paint should never be disposed of in regular household trash or poured down drains to prevent environmental contamination
  • Find a Collection Site:
    • Look for designated hazardous waste collection sites or upcoming collection events in your community for oil-based paint disposal.
    • These sites have specific guidelines, including using original containers and ensuring proper labelling without leaks.
  • Air Dry Unused Paint: – Dry for Disposal:
    • If you’ve fully used a can of paint, leave the can open to let it air dry completely.
    • Once dry, follow your local guidelines for disposing of the empty paint can, which may be eligible for recycling.
  • Contact Local Authorities:
    • Reach out to your local council to inquire about their specific regulations and recommendations for oil-based paint disposal.

Additional Questions on Disposal

Can I Mix Paint with Other Materials Before Disposal?

It’s not recommended to mix oil-based paint with other materials before disposal, as this can complicate the recycling or disposal process.

Can I Place Oil-Based Paint-Soaked Materials into a General Waste Bin?

It’s advisable to avoid placing oil-based paint-soaked materials into general waste bins, as they can contaminate regular waste and pose environmental risks.

By following proper disposal methods and adhering to local regulations, you can contribute to a safer environment and ensure the responsible handling of oil-based paint, reduce harm to both the ecosystem and public health.

Always prioritise safety and environmental responsibility when disposing of oil-based paint.

By following appropriate disposal methods and adhering to local regulations, you can help protect the environment and contribute to a safer community.

Disposing of Water-Based Paints


  • Water-based paints use water as their base instead of solvents.

  • They are considered less harmful to the environment and human health compared to oil-based paints.

  • Common examples include latex paints, acrylic paints, and tempera paints.
Paint and paint brushes

How to dispose of water-based paint

To dispose of water-based paint with regular trash, first, dry it out using absorbent material like sawdust, soil, or cat litter.

Fill the container with absorbents to soak up the liquid, ensuring it’s at least at the paint level. Leave the lid off in a well-ventilated area, away from children and pets.

If needed, add more absorbent until the paint is fully dry. Confirm it’s completely dried by piercing with a knife. Dispose of the dried paint in your regular trash.

Check local guidelines, some prefer the lid off for visibility, while others may want it on. If you have a significant amount, consider other disposal options.

Disposing of Latex Paints


  • Latex paint is a specific type of water-based paint that contains synthetic polymers like acrylics.

  • It’s popular for interior and exterior applications and is generally considered more eco-friendly.

How to dispose of Latex Paint

As latex paints are also considered as hazardous waste you should follow the same steps as we outlined for oil-based paints.

Alternatively, consider donating your excess paint to a community repaint program that redistributes decorative paint for community projects and murals.

It’s a safe and beneficial way to dispose of leftover paint, adding vibrancy to public spaces.

To find a nearby program, visit Community Repaint and click on “I have leftover paint” to begin.

Additionally, you can donate the paint to local schools, churches, or theatre groups, supporting creative endeavours and enhancing community spaces.

Common Mistakes in Paint Disposal

Proper disposal of paint is crucial to prevent environmental harm and health hazards. Unfortunately, several common mistakes are often made during the disposal process.

1. Pouring Down the Drain:

  • Many individuals mistakenly believe they can dispose of paint by pouring it down the drain or sink.

  • This is harmful as it can contaminate water sources and harm aquatic life due to the chemicals in the paint.

2. Putting in Regular Rubbish Bin:

  • Disposing of paint cans directly into regular household waste can pose risks to sanitation workers and contribute to environmental pollution in landfills.

3. Improper Storage:

  • Storing paint inappropriately can lead to deterioration, making it challenging to reuse or dispose of effectively.

Harm Caused by Improper Paint Disposal

Improper disposal of paint can have severe consequences for the environment, wildlife, and human health.

1. Water Contamination:

  • Paint chemicals can leach into groundwater, contaminating drinking water sources and aquatic habitats.

2. Soil Pollution:

  • Improperly disposed paint can contaminate soil, affecting plants and the overall ecosystem.

3. Harm to Aquatic Life:

  • Pouring paint down drains or disposing of it improperly in water bodies can harm fish and other aquatic organisms.

4. Health Issues:

  • Exposure to toxic paint chemicals can lead to health problems in humans, including respiratory issues, skin irritation, and more severe long-term effects.
Multi coloured paint pots

Safe Paint Disposal Methods

Practising safe paint disposal is crucial for environmental protection and public health. Here are several effective methods to dispose of paint safely:

1. Proper Disposal of Unused Paint:

  • Reuse or Donate:
    • If the paint is in good condition, consider donating it to local community centres, schools, or individuals who can use it.
  • Drying Out:
    • For water-based paints, allow them to dry out completely by leaving the can open in a well-ventilated area away from children and pets.
    • Once dry, the paint can be disposed of with regular household waste.

2. Disposing of Stripped Paint:

  • When removing paint during renovations or stripping, follow the same disposal guidelines as for the original type of paint.
  • For lead-based paint or paint with hazardous materials, consult local authorities for proper disposal instructions.

3. Recycling Options:

  • Paint Recycling Centers:
    • Many areas have specific facilities that accept paint for recycling or safe disposal.
    • Paints collected at these centres can be reprocessed and used to create new paint products.
  • Community Programs:
    • Check with local environmental organisations or community programs for scheduled paint recycling events.
    • These events often accept a variety of paints for safe disposal and recycling.

4. Contact Local Authorities:

  • Local Waste Management Centers:
    • Contact your local waste management or environmental agency to inquire about specific guidelines and disposal options available in your area.

Paint Expiration and Recycling

1. Paint Expiration:

  • Paint can expire over time, especially if not stored correctly or if it’s been kept for an extended period.

  • Signs of expired paint include a strong, unpleasant odour, separation of components, or a change in consistency.

  • Always check for expiration dates or labels indicating the paint’s shelf life.

2. Recycling Old Paint:

  • Some recycling centres accept old paint for reprocessing.

  • They typically mix and reprocess the old paint to create new paint products.
Paint container and brush on a step ladder

Can Paint be Sold or Reused?

1. Selling Old Paint:

  • Depending on your location and the condition of the paint, some individuals or organisations may accept and purchase usable, unexpired paint for reuse.

2. Reusing Old Paint:

  • Use leftover paint for touch-ups, small projects, or artistic endeavours to minimise waste.

How Paint is Made

Understanding how paint is made can provide insights into its disposal and environmental impact.

1. Ingredients:

  • Paint consists of pigments, binders, solvents, and additives.

  • Pigments provide colour, binders hold the paint together, solvents keep it in a liquid form, and additives enhance properties like durability and drying time.

2. Manufacturing Process:

  • The process involves mixing the pigments, binders, solvents, and additives in specific ratios based on the desired paint type.

  • Once mixed, the paint is tested for quality and consistency before packaging.

3. Manufacturer’s Responsibility:

  • Paint manufacturers are responsible for providing guidelines for the proper use, storage, and disposal of their products.

  • These guidelines aim to ensure environmental responsibility and safe handling throughout the paint’s lifecycle.


Proper paint disposal is a vital part of environmental responsibility and public health.

It’s crucial to be aware of the types of paint you’re dealing with and follow appropriate disposal methods.

Whether through recycling, donation, or safe drying and disposal, we all play a role in preserving our environment.

Always adhere to local regulations and seek guidance from waste management authorities for the best practices in your area.

By making informed choices, we can contribute to a cleaner and healthier planet.

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