By Carole Majorossy, Middlesex County Dept of Solid Waste Management, August 1996

When Middlesex County evaluated different HHW collection methods, it was discovered that paint made up over 50% of the materials received at the 6 – 8 Middlesex County HHW days held each year. It was at that time that it decided to explore the possibility of collecting paint during separate collections, in addition to the regular HHW program. 

Middlesex County is not the first to investigate the idea of collecting paints separately from other Household Hazardous Wastes. Atlantic County has had a monthly paint drop-off program since 1994. Residents are able to bring latex- and oil-based paints to the county’s recycling center on one Saturday each month. Atlantic County contracts with a vendor who removes the paint from the recycling center. Thereafter, the vendor recycles the usable latex paint and disposes of the oil-based paint. From January through November 1995, residents brought 115,834 pounds of paint to the recycling center. Atlantic County receives paint from approximately 75 to 100 residents each month.

Atlantic County also decided to take back the recycled latex paint from their vendor for resale to commercial and residential customers. The paint is tested by the vendor through an extensive QA/QC process before it is accepted for resale by the county. The one-gallon paint containers sell under the name “Ecopaint” and are available as interior or exterior paint in a variety of colors. Atlantic County reports that they have sold over 4,000 gallons to date.

Other counties have or plan to start similar programs. Gloucester County holds three recycling days for paints and other recyclable HHW in addition to its two regular HHW days. Ocean County is also planning to begin a separate paint recycling program.

As for Middlesex County, the County hopes to have in place, in 1997, six or more permanent drop off locations for paint at their municipal/county public works yards. The plan is to collect oil- and latex-based paints at a minimum and contract with a vendor to pick up the paint at the various drop off sites.

The benefits of a separate paint collection are obvious: It allows for an isolated collection of the majority of HHW materials so that regular HHW days are less busy and less costly. For those counties whose HHW day experiences are not always fun, this type of program may be the option!