Look into any home’s garage and you’re likely to see a collection of paint cans — some old, some not-so-old — but most of which are likely to sit unused for years. Why do we hang on to them? Because figuring out how and where to get rid of them safely — without harming others or the environment — can be confusing.

According to the City of Dallas’ Sanitation Services web page, household hazardous wastes (HHW) are “chemicals which could cause harm to the environment if they are thrown into your garbage roll cart, poured down the drain or storm sewer, illegally dumped, or stored incorrectly.” And paint is potentially one of these items if not disposed of properly.

We’ve done a little research to find out what you need to know about getting rid of your old paint if you live in the Dallas area. Read on to learn more!

1. Use it Up

If there is only a small amount of paint left in the can, find ways to use it for small projects around the home. Freshen up a bookcase or coffee table. Paint the dog house, flower boxes, or your mailbox. Create an accent wall in your home or repaint the interior of your closets or cabinets, where a fun, new color might bring you joy. When most of the paint is gone, let the paint left in the can dry before you toss it into your trash bin. (See #3 to learn why that is OK!)

2. Donate It

If properly stored and still usable, many individuals or groups might be interested in the paint you no longer need. Neighbors, scout troops, schools, charities, or churches are all likely candidates. List what you have on CraigsList, NextDoor or Facebook to see if there are any takers.

3. Dry It and Toss (Latex Paint Only!)

Oil-based paint is always considered hazardous waste (see #4 and #5 to learn what you need to know about its disposal), but latex paint is water-based and therefore can be thrown away in your normal trash pickup if you dry it out first. To dry small amounts of latex paint, you can simply leave the lid off the can in a well-ventilated area until the water evaporates, which may take a few days, if not longer, depending on the amount of paint in the can.

Alternatively, you can mix an equal amount of cat litter to the can (if there is room), stir until it has the consistency of oatmeal, and allow it to sit for an hour. When you toss the can into your garbage bin, leave the lid off. (Watch this video to see the technique in action.) There are also commercial paint hardeners available at hardware stores, but they are much pricier than the cat litter alternative.

4. Take it to a Dallas County Collection Center

If the above options don’t work for you, the city has established a couple of ways you can deliver your old paint to someone who will make sure it’s disposed of properly:

  • The Dallas County Home Chemical Collection Center: All approved household hazardous waste can be disposed of at this center, which is located at 11234 Plano Road in Northeast Dallas. They accept paint along with home chemical products, home repair products, lawn and garden chemicals, aerosol sprays, pool chemicals, craft and hobby supplies, cleaners and polishes, batteries of all kinds, automobile fluids and oil filters, fluorescent light tubes, computers, and cell phones. No containers larger than five gallons. No business or commercial waste. And no appliances, TVs, microwaves, or smoke detectors. But be advised: The center is only open Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays and the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. Find out more about hours, holiday closures, and what you can dispose of there on the City of Dallas’ Sanitation Services web page.
  • BOPA: BOPA is a mobile collection point for four types of hazardous waste: Batteries, Oil (motor oil and oil filters), Paint (latex only), and Antifreeze. The BOPA collection truck hits a different location around the area for collection one Saturday a month. You can find out when they’ll be in your neck of the woods on the Sanitation Services’ events page. They will only take 25 gallons of material a day per household and no more than 50 pounds of batteries. (Let’s hope we never have to worry about exceeding those limits!)

Both of these disposal options are available to any resident in a Dallas County HHW (household hazardous waste) member city, which includes people who live in Addison, Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Farmers Branch, Garland, Highland Park, Irving, Mesquite, Richardson, Rowlett, Sachse, Seagoville, Sunnyvale, University Park, and unincorporated areas of Dallas County. And you must bring proof (your driver’s license and a utility bill) that you live in one of these cities to use the facilities.

5. Find Another Collection Location

A site called Earth911 maintains an extensive list of recycling and disposal options for more than 350 materials. Simply type “paint” in the “Search For” field, add your Zip Code, and hit the “Search” button, and you will find a list of events or drop-off locations that meet your criteria.

We hope you find this information helpful! If you have questions, you can contact the City of Dallas Sanitation Services Department at 214-670-5111.

Image Credit: Mary Gerush

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