Paint and Paint Cans Disposal and Recycling

Most UK homeowners can visit their shed, garage, or store cupboard to find at least a few half-used cans of paint which most likely will never be opened again. They’re difficult to get rid of and it’s sometimes confusing to know exactly how to dispose of them.

We’ve put together a guide to paint and paint cans, including how to dispose of them safely and legally so you can finally chuck those eyesores from your storage.

Who invented paint and the paint can?

Paint itself dates back over 100,000 years. The earliest example of paint-making was discovered in South Africa where a variety of mineral and organic-based pigments were excavated. This paint was made from red iron oxide and charcoal to create a burgundy shade and it was mixed with bone marrow, used as a binding agent.

Paint cans, however, are far more recent. The first resealable tin paint can was patented by Sherwin in 1877.

What are paint cans and paint made from and how are they made?

Paint contains four key elements: pigment, solvent, resin, and additives. These vary between oil, water, or acrylic-based paints.

Meanwhile, paint cans come in two main types: plastic and metal. The more recently developed plastic cans are constructed from high-density Polyethylene (HDPE). Metal cans are made from tin-plated steel. The tinplating is for corrosion resistance and the steel can be repeatedly recycled.

Paint and paint can disposal

Pouring paint straight down the drain can cause immense environmental problems for your local ecosystem as well as create hard-to-shift blockages that will obstruct your pipes. The best way to dispose of paint is to donate it. Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they could make use of it or donate it to your local community centre, school, library, or council.

If, after advertising your paint online and around your network, you are still unable to donate it, you will need to dispose of it safely. Liquid paint is banned from landfills and will not be accepted by your local council. You must wait for it to harden – this can be sped up by adding sawdust, soil, or sand.

Then, take it to your local household waste and recycling centre where they will recycle your metal cans and dispose responsibly of your plastic cans.

Problems with paint and paint can waste

Paint often comes under the banner of hazardous waste because it contains metallic pigments and fortifiers. They can cause breathing problems if inhaled. This can have damaging effects on children and older people, including liver issues and some cancers.

Oil-based paint waste is especially problematic because it is also flammable and often contains volatile organic compounds.

Alternatives to paint and paint cans

It’s always better to opt for metal paint cans wherever possible because these are easier for you to dispose of and are widely recycled, meaning that you’ll be contributing less to landfills and environmental pollution.

For paint, we recommend getting creative with alternatives. Wallpaper is not the only substitute anymore. Consider experimenting with drapes and tapestries, decals and art, flowers and garlands for a living wall, or even bare brick or stone.

Facts about paint and paint cans

1. Before using linseed oil, artists used egg yolk to mix pigments.
2. Until the paint tube was invented, paint was stored in purses made from animal bladders.
3. Oil paint can take two weeks to fully dry.

Where can you take paint cans to recycle and dispose of for free?

You can take your paint and paints to your local household recycling and waste collection point.

It’s always better to dispose of paint and paint cans responsibly to save yourself from legal, environmental, or health concerns.

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