The do’s and don’ts of hazardous paint disposal

By Rory Freeman

The do’s and don’ts of hazardous paint disposal

How clued up are you on the industry regulations relating to paint disposal? Did you know, for example, that paint is not to be disposed of with regular waste but instead must be treated as hazardous waste? What’s more, if you’re in the trade then it’s likely that your paint has a function other than just aesthetic. Heat resistance, rust protection, fire-retarding, waterproofing – if you’re in the spraying industry then it’s highly likely that the paint you use has at least one of these functions, maybe more. Such paints contain chemicals that can prove hazardous to health if not disposed of correctly. As such, not only is it a legal requirement to safely dispose of your paint waste correctly but also the only safe option for the environment.

What should you do with leftover paint?

 The simplest solution is to use up all of your paint so that the leftover paint can is empty. A completely empty and sufficiently cleaned paint can, can be disposed of in the normal waste. But, be aware, paint should never be disposed of down the drain. Paint can be flammable and hazardous so attempting to dispose of it in your household or business plumbing system can release toxic fumes into your home or workspace. It will also clog the pipes which can lead to hefty plumbing bills. In short, there’s no room for taking short cuts here.


Paint disposal – the do’sPaint disposal – the don’ts
  • Store and label paint correctly to prevent the risk of cross contamination.
  • Never put paint down the drain.
  • Use a licensed hazardous waste disposal company (such as Elmbridge UK) to dispose of all leftover paint cans.
  • Don’t attempt to mix it with other rubbish (i.e., a skip, industrial bins). Paint is a hazardous material and must be disposed of correctly.
  • Don’t put paint directly into the bin – this can cause fires, contaminate the environment and is likely to result in heavy fines.
What do licensed paint disposal companies do with leftover paint?

The disposal process depends largely on the type of paint that’s being disposed of. That’s why avoiding cross-contamination is imperative when you work with paint. For water-based paint, liquids will be blended with absorbable waste so that the mixture forms a solid which is suitable for landfill. For solvent-based paints, liquids will be diluted, blended and transformed into thinner materials that are no longer hazardous. The cleaned tins can then be recycled.

Are all components in paint toxic?

 Paints compromise of a number of components and of course many of them are not hazardous to health. Water-based paints, as the name suggests, start with a water base but the chemicals added are likely to contain hazardous chemicals. There are also paints that are developed specifically so that they’re safe but when working at an industrial level, it’s highly likely that your paint won’t fall into this benign category.

If you have access to the drums, then check out the ingredients list. Any of the below are hazardous and will result in large fines if disposed of incorrectly:

  • Acrylic
  • Polyester
  • Polyurethane
  • Solvents
  • Epoxy
Is my paint waste hazardous?

If you know your paint contains any of the above then you can safely assume that your paint waste is hazardous and must be disposed of as such. The problem really arises though, when the paint does not contain any obvious compounds. A paint could well avoid any of the chemicals that have clearly labelled hazardous to health but still be considered unsafe if  listed as flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic or ignitable. What’s more, paint characteristics change over time so you may well have non-toxic paint that’s avoided cross-contamination and stored correctly that, over time, becomes hazardous.

The final word

When working with the environment agency and potential hazardous waste, it’s vital that you seek expert advice before disposing of paint containers and drums. At Elmbridge, we can work with you to make disposing of your waste paint as easy as possible. Please contact us to discuss how we can help you and potentially save you money.

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    1. Please could you send me some details of your paint disposal service.
      Prices and frequencies etc would be great.

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