How to Dispose of Paint

How to dispose of old paint in the UK?

After a renovation or just a spot of DIY, you may be looking at your excess cans of paint and wondering how to dispose of them. It is not as simple as just taking them to your nearest recycling centre or throwing them in your bin. 

Over the years of decorating, you may find that you have ended up with cans upon cans in your shed or garage that are just sitting there. You go to have a look and see that you have multiple shades of white along with creams, greens, and greys. 

After a while, the paint becomes unusable as it slowly starts to separate, dry out and change colours. So, the question of how to dispose of it becomes even more important. 

What not to do when disposing of paint 

When researching ways to get rid of your excess paint, it can be helpful to know what not to do. Disposing of it in an incorrect manner can bring about heavy fines and damages to your local environment. 

1. Pour it down the drain

Although many types of paint are perfectly safe to be used within your home and garden, the same does not apply to the environment. Paint is full of chemicals that can cause pollution and is harmful to local wildlife. 

Not only that, pouring paint down the drain can also damage your plumbing system. Most types of paints are flammable and, in some severe cases, can ignite the entire system. They also coat the inside of your pipes and obstruct the normal flow of water.

2. Put cans of paint in your bin

It may be tempting to just fling the unwanted cans of paint into your bin, but unfortunately, it is not as easy as this. Usual bin collection services from your local council will not be able to dispose of this liquid in their normal methods, slowing it down as a whole and maybe even causing further damage to the environment. 

3. Take liquid paint to your local disposal centre 

Similar to putting paint in your bins, most disposal centres within the UK do not accept liquid paint. With many of them, you are only able to take empty metal paint cans but you can always check in with your local centre to find out exactly what they do accept. 

What to do to safely dispose of paint

Now you know what you can’t do with your old paint pots, let’s move on to how you can dispose of them. We have researched the easiest ways you can get rid of these unwanted decorating supplies. 

1. Add hardener to make the paint become solid 

The reason why many household waste sites will not accept paint as liquid waste is not allowed in most landfill sites. Recycle Now advises you add a paint hardener or sawdust to your leftover paint to make it solid. This way, you can take it to the centre. 

Just make sure you puncture the paint with a knife or screwdriver to make sure it’s entirely solid before you take it. 

2. Give it to friends and family 

If you bought some paint to do some light retouches or just decorate a small area, you may be left with a can that is still nearly full once you are finished with it. But what you don’t want could benefit others close to you. 

To save them having to buy their own paint, you could give them your old cans to help them out. If it is a common colour such as white or light grey, chances are that they will be able to put them to good use.  

3. Donate it to charity 

Another option to give your unwanted paint a new purpose is to donate it to a scheme that reuses paint to brighten communities. Community RePaint is a project that redistributes paint to benefit families and charities. 

You can search your nearest drop off point to donate paint that is still in usable condition

How to dispose of empty paint cans 

If you have used all of the paint, but still have the empty cans to deal with, there are simple methods of disposal. Plastic paint tubs cannot be widely recycled but if they don’t have any paint in them, you can pop them straight into your household bin. 

Empty metal cans are widely accepted at recycling centres if they are dried out and completely empty of paint. To be certain of this, you can take the lid off the tin and allow it to dry out naturally before getting rid of it. 

You can also take the hassle out of discarding any type of paint by hiring a professional collection team. They will be able to take these unwanted cans off your hands and dispose of the paint in the most eco-friendly manner, giving you the peace of mind that it has all been taken care of. 



Feature image credit: D. Pimborough / Shutterstock

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