How to Dispose of Paint & Building Materials

How to dispose of paint and other building materials

Spring is here and so are the spring projects…along with the leftover paint and project scraps that go along with them. Before you just toss these items in the trash, pause and think about how to dispose of paint and other building materials safely. You may not think tossing these project scraps in the trash can be harmful, but the more you DIY the more your impact adds up. Plus, you can be hit with fines for improper disposal.

Let’s avoid the safety issues and fines, and instead learn how to dispose of paint and other construction materials. Plus, Earth Day is April 22; let this be your one change towards reducing your environmental impact in 2024.

How to Dispose of Paint

How to dispose of paint

Paint and other liquids used for home projects and construction pose unique hazards and can be complicated to dispose of. Some items require special pickups or drop-offs, others can be thrown away but require some treatment first.

We broke down the most common methods for how to dispose of paint.

How to Recycle Leftover Paint

Recycling your paint is the #1 best thing you can do with leftover paint because it reduces carbon emissions and gets recycled back into a quality product. There are few paint recycling centers that offer this service.

Here are a few paint recycling centers and how to find a center near you.

  • EarthPaint – a Midwest-based paint recycling organization with centers throughout Chicagoland and into Wisconsin.
  • PaintCare – has drop-off locations in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
  • Check Local Paint Stores/Suppliers – ask who sold you the paint about recycling and disposal options. Some options are in-store or can be outsourced through the supplier.
  • Google “Paint Recycling Near Me” – the most straightforward way to be matched up with local recycling centers. Some of these are non-profits, government organizations, or are built-in to your favorite hardware or specialty stores.

How to Dispose of Paint Through Waste Collection Services

Some paints, stains, and lacquers don’t have recycling options. They can still be safely disposed of through waste collection services. This is not your standard city garbage service. These companies specialize in disposing of hazardous waste.

Jump to the “Building Materials” disposal section to learn more.

How to Dispose of Paint in the Trash

While we do recommend recycling your leftover paint, small amounts of leftover standard house paint for interiors and exteriors can be thrown in your standard trashcan. However, there are steps you should take beforehand.

Dry-out Your House Paint

Dry out your house paint.

Yes, you can put the lid back on but those only hold so well and can result in a mess. Instead, remove the lid and leave your paint exposed to air so the paint can eventually dry-up and harden. It’s also best to leave the paint somewhere it won’t be disturbed and is away from animals and children.

The less paint you have the faster this process is. However, larger amounts of paint can take days, a week, or more to dry up.

How to Speed Up the Drying Process

There are only a couple ways to speed up the drying process for larger amounts of paint, such as a half-full 5-gallon bucket, and that is to 1) increase the airflow, or 2) decrease the amount or thickness of paint. Here are three ways to do that:

  • Use a Fan: Keep a fan running wherever your paint is drying to increase the airflow. If it’s possible, direct the fan towards your paint.
  • Continue Painting: Look for other ways to use up the paint you have left. This can include touching up doors, windows, or projects you have lying around. You’re just trying to decrease the amount of paint you have. Even small painting projects will help you towards this goal.
  • Change containers: Paint will dry the slowest in the bucket. The top will harden but the paint underneath will require more time due to lack of air exposure. Find a wider container that has more surface exposure and you don’t mind covering in paint. The wider the container the quicker your paint will dry.

How to Dispose of Building Materials

How to dispose of building materials

Construction materials can vary from wood scraps to leftover insulation, the old or damaged building materials you are replacing, and beyond. You can’t always dispose of these materials in the same location, but we made a quick guide for disposing of different types of construction materials and where you can donate or dispose of them.

How to Recycle Building Materials

There are actually a variety of options for recycling building materials. Donors have the choice of donating to a specialty recycling center or donating to an organization that can reuse or sell the materials. Here is a quick list of these places.

  • Earth911 – Nationwide recycling database that connects you to recycling options and eco-friendly disposal services near you.
  • Habitat for Humanity – Accepts paint, power tools, and leftover building scraps. Some donations are resold
  • The Salvation Army – Accepts power tools, hand tools, and garden tools.
  • Goodwill – Accepts power tools, hand tools, and garden tools.
  • Post “Free Pickup” – they say “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Post your extra building materials on your local community pages and you may be surprised to see how fast someone comes to pick it up.

To learn more about Tool Donation, read our TIA article: 5 Places to Donate Tools for Tax Credit.

How to Dispose of Building Materials

Here a some great hazardous and non-hazardous waste removal companies. They are great at removing waste from large projects but also can do smaller one-off waste removal services.

  • CleanEarth – Nationwide hazardous and non-hazardous waste removal company, including electronics, and provides services for nine different industries, including: chemical, construction, government, energy & utilities, manufacturing & industrial, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Dimension – Nationwide waste removal service that also provides dumpster rentals and allows you to request a quote for large or unique waste removal jobs. Provides recycling options as well.

Where to Dispose of Different Building Materials

Some individual building materials are actually fairly easy to recycle, you just need to know where. Here are some common leftover building materials and common places you can recycle them.

  • Batteries – Check your local Home Depot or hardware store.
  • Light Bulbs – Check your local Home Depot or hardware store.
  • Windows – Look for window recycling options, such as Pella Windows & Doors.
  • Power Tools – Broken or damaged tools can be disposed of through recycling centers. Old tools that you are replacing can be donated to organizations, such as: Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Goodwill Enterprises and more. Check your local donation centers for tool donations.

The Impact of Proper Disposal

When it comes to trash many people think “what’s one can of paint?”, or “I’m just one person and it’s not that much trash.” But these small actions add up and lead to the poisoning of air, water, and soil and can have damaging consequences to our health and ecosystem.

As a DIY’er or skilled trade professional, the biggest thing you can do this Earth Day is learn how to dispose of paint and other building materials safely and STICK TO IT! Just like bad actions add up, so do positive actions.

Whether you choose to donate materials or dispose of them through waste centers, you are working towards a positive impact.


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