Paint has many components that may make it toxic, and therefore a hazardous waste. This is true of paints used for buildings, furniture, appliances and automobiles, as well as paint used for artistic purposes. The "base" is generally the issue. Paints can be water-based, oil-based, latex, acrylic or contain other solvents. The options for disposal are based somewhat on the type of paint.
Some states have passed paint stewardship laws requiring recycling of paint, as well as involving retailers in the disposal process. Florida has no such directives at this time. In addition, Fort Lauderdale residents may no longer participate in Broward County-hosted paint drop-off or recycling programs.
We ask our Fort Lauderdale neighbors to help us keep paint out of our recycling and garbage bins, and to keep it from entering our groundwater, by bringing paint to our Household Hazardous Waste events, donating it to charity, and following the additional guidelines on this page.
Storage and Use
A first step in reducing paint waste is to buy only what you need. Proper storage of paint ensures that it can be used for many years. Water-based and latex paints can last up to 10 years. Oil-based and solvent-based paints can last up to 15. Please follow these guidelines for use and storage of paints.
- Reduce waste by planning your project carefully. Measure the space or objects to be painted and consult with the retailer or other professional to do an estimate of how much you will need. Save the computer-coded labeling which shows the color name and color mix instructions. That way, if you need to reorder, your new paint will match the old.
- Test your old paints. Most paints develop a "skin" over time. Removing the skin and stirring should bring them back to a usable state. If the paint does not recombine into its original color, it's time for disposal. Latex paint will actually smell rancid.
- Follow manufacturer's directions for use and storage. Be sure that caps are tight, and lids are tapped down. Air destroys paint and increases the chance that it will go to waste. You can save space and minimize your exposure to air by combining containers of the same color.
- Rinse brushes, rollers and other supplies indoors. Never allow water mixed with paint to runoff onto lawns or streets.
- Clean up excess amounts of paint and never dump them or hose them into storm drains.
- Always store paint in a dry area free from rainfall. The longevity and usefulness of paint is affected by humidity. This is a challenge in Florida. Try to keep your leftover paint in a cool, dry area.
To dispose of unused, leftover or unwanted paints, bring them to our Hazardous Waste Drop-off events.
If you are unable to wait for a disposal event, you may follow these instructions for home disposal of water-based, acrylic and latex paints only.
- Mix equal parts of cat litter and paint. Stir to combine. Let sit for one hour, or until dry.
- Place the dried paint mixture in your garbage can.
Remember, oil based paints must always be treated as hazardous waste and taken to a drop-off event.
Please follow these guidelines for disposal of empty containers.
- Containers from water-based paints can be rinsed, and usually can be recycled. The exception are watercolors which come in squeezable tubes.
- Entirely empty containers from all other types of paint should be disposed of with garbage.
- Partially filled containers should be treated as hazardous waste. Follow the guidelines outlined above.
If you are working with a professional painter, please inquire about disposal methods. Professional painters should follow all local, State and Federal disposal guidelines applicable to them.