Disposing of Your Paints and Household Chemicals Safely

August 11th 2009
Disposing of Your Paints and Household Chemicals Safely

When it comes to renovations and home improvement projects, homeowners have become more aware than ever when it comes to the environmental impact of the products they use and how to dispose of them properly, especially when it comes to staining and painting. Whatever your project, we want to ensure that what we do to improve our homes does not lead to negative consequences down the road for future generations of fish and fowl.

Painting, decorating, furniture refinishing and woodworking all involve the use of thinners, adhesives and at times hazardous chemical compounds which can all be harmful to the small fish and aquatic life that inhabit our streams and rivers. When these products are poured into ditches, parking lots and the like, they enter the storm water drainage system of your local municipality.

Most municipalities' storm water drainage goes untreated, and discharges into local creeks and streams. These are the areas that our children play near and drink from, and also form an ideal natural habitat for salmon, trout, and other crucial aquatic life forms that are integral to our ecosystem.

To prevent contaminants from entering the storm water drainage and ultimately our streams and creeks, it is a good practice to collect all wash water, solutions and solvents used to clean equipment contact a disposal company that will recycle or dispose of them properly.

By using water based paints (ie latex or acrylic) whenever possible allows you to clean up easily with water as opposed to heavy solvents and thinners. These paints are also less toxic than their oil-based counterparts. For a really great paint that is environmentally safe with low VOC's and virtually no odor, visit your local Cloverdale Paint outlet and ask about Horizon Paint

Leftover paint should be saved and reused whenever possible. Never throw out your used paint cans as they can be recycled through the proper recycling centers (RCBC), or even donated to local charities for use. In large cities there is a paint drop off location in nearly every neighborhood, but in more remote areas, there may be a regional drop off branch or local business that will act as a collection depot.

Never clean brushes or rinse paint containers into the street, gutter or storm drain. Water-based paints and brushes can be cleaned and rinsed into a location that is connected to the sanitary sewer. Oil-based paints and used thinners can be filtered and reused accordingly. Set used thinners and solvents aside in a closed jar, and the paint particles will settle, drain off the clear liquid for reuse, allow the remaining paint to harden and dispose of it in the garbage, or return it to a depot for hazardous wastes.

Little known fact: Latex paint that is not suitable for reuse is used as a raw material in manufacturing concrete products and unusable oil-based paint is either re-distilled for its solvent or used for energy as an alternative fuel.

Spills of paint or solvents must be cleaned up immediately. Solvents and paint thinners are flammable and can create explosive conditions in our sewers and must not be allowed to enter sewers or plumbing fixtures at any time.

It's always a good idea to avoid using solvents to remove existing finishes from furniture whenever possible. Instead use mechanical methods such as sanding, scraping or a heat gun to effectively remove lacquers and stains.

In the event of an accidental spill to the environment please contact the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) at 1 800 663 7867. In the event that the chemical is flammable, toxic, corrosive or has other hazardous properties, contact your local fire department.

Other Links

RCBC Recycling website
Environment Canada website
paint recycling locations