Recycle your left-over paint with PaintCare

PaintCare accepts all brands of paint, stain and varnish

Did you know there’s an option for recycling leftover paint in Minnesota? That’s right, recycling, not just disposing of leftover paint.
Since 2014, the non-profit PaintCare has been partnering with local paint stores in Minnesota to reclaim and recycle paint products through more than 260 drop-off sites across the state – and more than 100 of those sites are in the seven-county metro area. 
The American Coatings Association (ACA) is a national trade association representing the industry, including manufacturers. ACA created PaintCare as an alternative to paint disposal 14 years ago. Think of it as an industry-led paint stewardship program.
Oregon was the first state to establish a PaintCare program. Since that time, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and Vermont have enacted legislation to do the same, and Illinois will soon join the ranks. 
A key element of the legislation is that all retailers in participating states must charge a fee that covers the cost of collecting and managing left-over paint. 
Look at your receipt next time you buy paint or another coating product; the fee is based on the size of the container purchased. It is often, but not always, listed separately on a printed receipt. 
• 1 gallon or smaller: $ 0.49  
• 1-2 gallons: $ 0.99
• 2-5 gallons: $ 1.99  
Find a drop-off site
Go to the interactive map at to find the drop-off location nearest you.
Jacob Saffert is the PaintCare program manager for Minnesota and Illinois. He said, “Leftover paint is typically the largest volume product collected by municipal household hazardous waste programs. From the data we filed with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last year, PaintCare collected about 900,000 gallons of paint across Minnesota in 2022. That’s pretty typical for us.”
In Minnesota, PaintCare’s contracted waste haulers transport paint to a recycler in Fridley to process the paint they collect. There the paint is sorted by color, filtered, and blended to create an assortment of standard colors. The gallon and five gallon containers of recycled paint are mostly sold to Habitat for Humanity Re-Use Stores; the colors cannot be re-tinted. 
When asked about why the paint industry was early to get on board with a paint stewardship program, Saffert said, “One benefit the industry saw was that if you’re proactive, you get a seat at the table to make sure the final program is one that works for everyone.” 
Dealing with oil-based products
According to Saffert, about 80% of paint products collected by PaintCare are water-based and 20% are oil-based. 
Oil-based products are more complicated to dispose of because there aren’t any recyclers that can deal with them. Household Hazardous Waste sites make efforts to resell them, but Saffert estimates that only about 10% of what counties collect actually gets re-used by consumers. Oil-based paint that can’t be reused is typically burned for energy. 
Oil-based paints have higher levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and stronger odor than their water-based counterparts. Oil-based paint clean-up requires chemical solvents, and turpentine and paint thinner should never be poured down the drain. 
The industry is phasing out oil-based paint products for these reasons.
Better storage, longer life
Paint lasts longer when properly stored. Choose a dry location that won’t be subject to extremes of temperature and humidity, and make sure containers are sealed.
PaintCare sites accept all brands of leftover house paint, stain, and varnish. Containers must be five gallons or smaller, and customers may not drop off more than five gallons of paint per visit. Leaking, unlabeled, and empty containers are not accepted at drop-off sites. Make sure all paint containers have original lids and labels. The program includes container recycling for both plastic and metal paint containers


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