Paints and coatings

Businesses that use paints and coatings must dispose of these dangerous wastes correctly. If your business uses paint booth filters, learn how to test them for dangerous waste when it's time to change them.

Types of paint products that could be dangerous waste are:

  • Solvent-based and water-based paints.
  • Thinners and solvents
  • Paint booth filters.

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Not a business?

If you are a household or individual looking for ways to recycle household paint, please go to 1-800-RECYCLE or visit the paint stewardship program.

What paints and coating are dangerous waste?

Solvent-based paints and coating

Most solvent-based paint and coating wastes are dangerous because they are ignitable or contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Water-based paints and coating

Water-based paints and coating are less likely to designate as dangerous waste. Some designate as dangerous because the product mixture contains toxic ingredients.

  • Check your Safety Data Sheets for ingredients that would make it designate as dangerous waste.

Thinners and solvents

Thinners and solvents used in paint preparation, painting, spray guns, or cleanup are usually dangerous waste. They usually designate as listed, ignitable, or dangerous waste. 

Common examples:

  • Acetone.
  • Toluene.
  • Xylene.
  • MEK (methyl ethyl ketone).

Some waste solvents and paint thinners can be recycled

Recycling can save you product and disposal costs. If your solvents or thinners can be recycled, you may do so on site or at a recycling facility.

  • If you use a still, the still bottoms are dangerous waste.

Paint booth filters

Paint booth filters are often dangerous waste. Toxic metals, such as cadmium, chromium, and lead in paint pigments or other coatings may end up in your filters. Some filters have halogenated organic compounds (HOCs) that designate as dangerous. If the paint has HOCs, the filter may also have HOCs and designate as dangerous.

Test your used paint booth filters

When it is time to change your paint booth filters, have the used filters tested for dangerous waste. Here's how:

  • Protect yourself from hazardous dusts during this process.
  • Cut a 1-foot square piece from the dirtiest part of the filter or bank of filters.
  • Seal it in a plastic bag.
  • Send the filter sample to a state certified lab.
    • Request SW-846 Method 9023 for halogenated organic compounds.
    • If you suspect your primer contains lead, chromium, or cadmium (check the Safety Data Sheets or talk to your paint manufacturer), request SW-846 Method 1311, Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for metals.
  • Keep a copy of the lab report. During an inspection, you may have to show a report proving your filters are not dangerous waste.

If your lab results show that the filters aren’t dangerous waste, you may throw them in the garbage. If they are dangerous, you must follow all dangerous waste rules.

Tips for your facility

Here is a list of tips that may be useful in your painting or coating facility:

  • Buy only as much paint as you need.
  • Mix and use the least amount of coating possible. Mix only what you will use.
  • Give leftover paint to customers for touch-ups.
  • Return unused paint to the manufacturer if it is not past the expiration date. It may be possible to sell it through an industrial materials exchange service, as well.
  • If possible, reduce the number of different coatings and colors you use.
  • Use water-borne primers and stay informed about new developments in water-based top coats.
  • Use optimum gun settings and spray tips for each job.
  • Where possible, choose thin coatings using heat rather than solvents.
  • Use disposable liners for paint containers and spray gun cups. Disposing of liners creates less waste than disposing of rinsing material.
  • Schedule jobs in batches to reduce number of cleanups.
  • Contact a pollution prevention specialist to learn how to reduce paint waste, which can save you money on product and disposal costs.

Common designation codes for paint

Businesses need to know paint and coating designation codes and characteristics. Some paints will also require Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) due to heavy metals. Here are some common paints and their designation codes:

  • Oil- or solvent-based paint (used or expired): ignitable, toxic. Waste code: D001.