Wondering how to dispose of paint in the UK? Seeing as you’re reading this the answer is probably YES!
Most homeowners and DIY’ers across the country are unsure of the proper way to get rid of leftover paint.
Improper disposal can have serious environmental consequences, including damage to plants, trees, waterways, and animal life. In fact, some types of paint can take years to break down in the environment, causing long-lasting harm.
Fortunately, there are a couple of legal and environmentally friendly ways to dispose of paint. However, before taking the route of disposing of it, it’s worth noting that paint typically lasts up to 5 years when stored correctly.
So, before you throw it away, consider using or storing the paint for a project down the line (more about this below).
Finally, I’ll answer some commonly asked questions about disposing of other types of painting equipment such as thinners.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
Why You Should Recycle Paint Correctly
It’s a proven fact that improper disposal of paint can and will cause harm to the environment (here are some stats from Wikipedia to show just how bad it can be). It can affect plants, trees and the entire wildlife eco-system by contaminating the soil, making it difficult for plants to grow.
It can also harm animal life by contaminating their habitat and their food chain.
In waterways such as rivers and creeks, paint can disrupt the natural pH balance of the water and seriously harm aquatic life and animals that drink from it (yes, including humans).
Some paint can contain seriously hazardous chemicals such as lead, so it really is essential to dispose of it correctly to avoid harming the planet.
5 Ways You SHOULD NOT Dispose Of Paint
Here are five methods that you should 100% AVOID when disposing of paint:
- Pouring it down the sink – not only can this pollute natural habitats it also risks damaging your own plumbing system, which can cost a fortune to repair.
- Pouring it down the toilet – again this will end up in natural waterways and can cause a blockage in your pipes, leading to an expensive repair bill.
- Pouring it in your garden – never a good idea! Not only is it an eyesore it can damage plants and trees and contaminate the soil.
- Throwing it in your wheelie bin (or home recycling bins) – unless the cans empty or fully dry, it’s illegal and can harm the environment.
- Fly tipping it – this is illegal, and you can face a substantial fine and possible imprisonment.
Dealing With Leftover Paint & What Can You Do With It
Before disposing of your leftover paint, really just consider using it for another project!
Stored correctly, paint can last up to five years (closed properly and not kept too hot or cold). You can also label it so you remember what room it was used for, and when you need a touch up or to repaint you can simply use it up or purchase more of the same!
You can also donate your leftover paint to a local painting scheme!
According to the Community RePaint website, “Each year, an estimated 50 million litres of the 320 million litres of paint sold in the UK goes to waste.” so it is well worth the little extra time to donate you unwanted to a good cause or family in need.
How To Dispose Of Water & Oil-Based Paints In The UK
But if you disposing of your paint is your only available options, here are the main ways for disposing of paint in the UK, ethically and responsibly.
Disposing Via A Recycling Center
To dispose of paint at a recycling center, check with your local council to see if they have a recycling program in place. You can also use the Recycle Now website, where you can enter your postcode to find your nearest recycling center.
You can also check out the Community RePaint website I mentioned above.
Through A Local Council Tip
Most council tips will accept paint cans, but they may only accept hard and dry paint. To speed up the process, mix the paint with a solidifying agent like cat litter (read more options below). Once the paint is solid, you can take it to the tip or potentially put it in your own wheelie bin depending on your local council guidelines (they’re all different).
But, How Can You Make Paint Go Hard?
To make paint go hard, mix it with an absorbent material like cat litter or sawdust. Stir it well and leave it to dry out before throwing it in the bin. If it doesn’t solidify the first time, you can repeat the process.
Another option is to buy a specialist paint hardener from a DIY store such as B&Q or online with Amazon, although these are typically much more expensive than cat litter.
As a last resort, you could pour the paint into a cardboard box and let it dry out completely before throwing it away, but make sure to contain the box in a bag so it doesn’t spill everywhere once the box gets soggy!
Is There Any Difference For Disposing Of Emulsion Vs Oil-Based Paints?
When hardened, water-based emulsion paints (such as silk and matt variations commonly used at home) are not particularly hazardous compared to oil-based paints, so it can generally be disposed of in your regular bins.
However, oil-based paints contain hazardous chemical VOCs, such as Benzene, Toluene and Xylene. Whilst these are more of an air-born problem whilst painting, oil-based paints can also contain Lead, Cadmium and Chromium which is dangerous if absorbed through the skin or ingested.
Even some exterior paints (masonry) can be quite dangerous depending on their chemical make-up. Some are so bad it’s not recommended you ever use exterior paint indoors.
Any non-solid oil based paints should be disposed of via your local council’s hazardous waste collection!
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
To sum up, please don’t clown around with old paint!
Properly disposing of paint is crucial for the environment and for the safety of you and your family. Absolutely do not consider pouring it down the drain or throwing it out wet to save some time, the impact is not worth the time you save.
Instead, consider using it for a future project, donating it to a local painting scheme, or disposing of it correctly through a recycling center or local council tip.
Other Common Questions About Disposing of Paint
If you have more questions about disposing of paint, here are some quick answers to other common questions:
How do I dispose of paint thinner?
Paint thinner is considered hazardous waste, so it should be disposed of at a household hazardous waste collection site. Contact your local council or the online government Hazardous Waste Disposal website for more information on where to dispose of paint thinner in your area.
Can I dispose of acrylic paint in the same way as emulsion or oil-based paint?
Yes, acrylic paint can be disposed of in the same way as water-based (emulsion) paints. This means you can take it to a recycling center or dry it out and dispose of it in your regular household wheelie bin.
How do I get rid of aerosol paint cans?
Aerosol paint cans are considered hazardous waste, so they should not be thrown in your regular household waste bin. Instead, take them to a household hazardous waste collection site or recycling center for safe disposal.
How can I tell if my paint is hazardous waste?
To determine if your paint is hazardous waste, check the label for any warning signs, such as “harmful,” “toxic,” or “flammable.” Also, consider the type of paint, as oil-based paints typically contain hazardous chemicals. If you’re still unsure, use the dedicated government website for guidance on proper disposal methods.