Raea Jean Leinster, a decorative painter in the D.C. area, ran into a problem over time that most homeowners face: How do you properly dispose of unused latex paint?
Her answer was Yuck Old Paint, a company she founded that serves as the East Coast’s only eco-friendly paint pick-up and disposal service. Designed to keep paint out of landfills, paint collected by the company will be most likely be adopted by a deserving theater group or humanitarian construction project.
Proper Latex Paint Disposal is Uber-Confusing
Safely disposing of unwanted paint depends on three factors:
- What type of paint — oil or latex?
- What paint types will your local drop-off center accept?
- Is the leftover latex paint still liquid, or is it dried out?
Washable, water-based latex paint accounts for 85 percent of U.S. paint sales. Though latex paint is less toxic than stinky oil-based versions, it does contain acrylics, vinyls and epoxies that pose environmental risks to water if poured down drains, or if the paint seeps out of a landfill.
Most states don’t consider latex paint a household hazardous material if it’s has been turned into a “solid state.” As a solid, the risk of that extra liquid paint contaminating waterways is greatly reduced. (California is the exception, in that it considers all latex paint a hazardous material and requires it to be landfilled in special “dumps.”)
Liquid latex paint can be transformed into a solid by mixing it with cat litter or a store-bought paint hardener, or simply by leaving it out in the open to harden.
Oil-based paints are considered a household hazardous material and should never be tossed in the trash. Always bring oil-based paints to your citizen drop-off center for hazmat material disposal.
Baltimore’s Paint Disposal Options
Baltimore County residents can drop off up to 20 gallons of paint year-round at the Central Acceptance Center in Cockeysville. Fortunately, that collected latex paint is donated to The Loading Dock, where it’s then sold for a nominal handling fee.
The not-so-good news is that latex paint disposal for Baltimore City residents is limited and inconvenient. Baltimore accepts oil-based paints and other household hazardous materials at citizen drop-off centers on weekends from April through October.
However, latex paint isn’t considered a household hazardous material and therefore isn’t accepted at drop-off centers. City residents are permitted to toss latex paint in the trash only in a solid-brick-of-paint state.
So let’s posit that there may be a few Baltimore Fishbowl readers who, over the years, have collected 15 to 25 gallons and quarts of paint in their homes. It’s a safe bet that taking the time to transform all that paint into a solid state will never happen. The leftover paint is going to sit on a shelf until the home is vacated.
Commercial contractors and businesses have it tough, too. Firms attempting to toss paint are pretty much out of luck — drop-off centers in both Baltimore County and Baltimore City are for residential use only.
A Business Problem Becomes a New Business Solution
Given all of this, Leinster saw a market opening.
“For years I was frustrated that I had no paint disposal option to offer my clients,” she said. “Most of my clients’ unused paint was perfectly good paint that someone could use, but how do you get half a gallon of the ‘perfect neutral’ into the hands of someone who needs it?”
With the intention of helping her clients, Leinster started Yuck Old Paint three years ago. She assumed her little business might pick up paint from 10 homes a month, but to her surprise the eco-friendly service was a hit, especially for commercial users. Business has been strong enough that Leinster now runs Yuck full-time.
“Our average household paint pickup is 25.2 gallons,” she said. “Drying out that much messy paint outside on tarp and avoiding spills, and then schlepping paint to a drop-off center in a car, all that just isn’t convenient.”
Serving the Mid-Atlantic, Yuck Old Paint’s clients are homeowners associations, estate sales, homeowners and commercial builders. They each pay a pickup charge (residential pickups are $50), plus a $5 per container fee, with “container” defined as a quart, gallon or five-gallon bucket.
Job Title: Druid and Planet Protector Gladiator
Though Leinster put on her business hat when she launched Yuck Old Paint, she also believes that good business is doing the right thing for the planet. Yuck Old Paint’s mission, beyond just picking up paint, is also to keep it out of the landfill.
Three quarters of paint collected by her company is thus reused and diverted from landfills or incinerators, giving Leinster an unofficial extra job title of “paint broker.” Her clients vary.
“We’ve set up a system for distributing collected paint to theater groups, as far as New York City, charity construction projects, and also to licensed contractors,” she said.
Paint that is not optimal for re-use gets cured into a solid waste material by Yuck Old Paint using a proprietary method, and is then disposed of in Virginia according to state regulations.
Her staff take their jobs seriously. Morgan Jones, whose job title is “Druid and Planet Protector Gladiator,” he cures “sour” paint for disposal.
Yuck Old Paint will also collect hazardous chemicals when they do a paid pickup.
“We understand that when people are panicked to move, or we’re helping de-clutter an estate sale, there’s a chance that hazardous items may find their way to the trash.” she said.
Updated 1/24/18: A reader emailed in a note of thanks because Yuck Old Paint picked up her 80+ cans of paint (see photo below).
Click here for more info on Yuck Old Paint, or to request a pickup online.