Navigating Industrial Paint Waste: Guidelines for Responsible Disposal

In the industrial sector, the use of paint and coatings is a common practice to protect equipment, enhance aesthetics, and meet regulatory standards. However, the disposal of paint waste comes with its own set of rules and regulations that must be adhered to. 

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the essential guidelines for handling industrial paint waste. 

Understanding Industrial Paint Waste

Industrial paint waste encompasses a broad spectrum of materials and processes, including:

  • Unused Paint: Excess or unused paint that can no longer be used.
  • Paint Containers: Empty or partially empty containers that once held paint.
  • Paint-Related Materials: Such as paint thinners, solvents, brushes, rollers, and cleaning agents.
  • Paint Overspray: The overspray that occurs during the application of paint coatings.
  • Paint-Contaminated Equipment: Tools and equipment that have come into contact with paint and need proper disposal.
  • Hazardous Paints: Some industrial paints contain hazardous materials, such as lead or other heavy metals, which require special handling.

Navigating Industrial Paint Waste Rules

paint waste and recycling

Classify Paint Waste

There are a few common paint types that are used in the industrial paint industry that can be classified in many different ways. Begin by classifying your paint waste accurately. This step is crucial because different types of paint waste may have specific disposal requirements. Categorize them as non-hazardous or hazardous based on their chemical composition: 

  • Latex paints: Latex paints are not classified as hazardous waste. This can make latex paint a little more difficult to dispose of because they don’t follow strict guidelines like hazardous paints. The good news is that latex paint is easily recycled. Solids can be melted, repurposed, and reused for colorants and additives. You could even dispose of a small amount of latex paint by mixing it with cat litter and disposing of it like regular trash (ONLY for small amounts). Otherwise, check out a latex recycler near you
  • Oil-based paints: Oil-based paints have a smoother and glossier finish than their latex counterparts, which makes them a highly sought-after paint mixture. Furthermore, oil-based paints contain “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) which aren’t great for our environment and ozone layers. Because of this, oil-based paints are sold in smaller quantities and are considered hazardous waste. 
  • Industrial paints: Industrial occupations including aerospace, automotive, or electronic industry often turn to industrial-grade paint for specific applications. This isn’t to say that industrial companies don’t use latex or oil-based paints (because they can), it just means that these specific industrial paints are being used for protecting substrates such as ceramic, metal, fiberglass, and asphalt. Depending on how many hazardous characteristics the paint contains, will either determine whether it is hazardous or non-hazardous. To air on the safe side, industrial paints should be considered hazardous. 

Hazardous Paint Waste 

If your industrial paint waste is classified as hazardous, you must comply with strict regulations for storage, transportation, and disposal. Hazardous paint waste can contain components such as lead, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or other harmful substances that pose risks to human health and the environment if not managed properly. 

Proper Storage

Store paint waste in appropriate containers that are well-labeled. Keep hazardous and non-hazardous paint waste separate to prevent cross-contamination. Proper storage also prevents leaks or spills that can be harmful to the environment.

If you do encounter a spill, don’t panic. Quickly evaluate the size and severity of the spill. Determine whether it poses an immediate danger to personnel, nearby communities, or the environment. Prioritize safety above all else. If the spilled paint is highly toxic or poses inhalation risks, evacuate the area and keep a safe distance. Ensure that anyone in the vicinity is aware of the spill and leaves the area promptly.

Report the spill to the appropriate authorities and your organization’s designated personnel immediately. In many regions, hazardous spills are subject to mandatory reporting to regulatory agencies.


Maintain accurate records of your paint waste disposal activities, including the type and quantity of waste generated, disposal dates, and the destination facility. Detailed records are essential for demonstrating compliance during audits.

Recycling and Reuse

Whenever possible, consider recycling or reusing paint waste. Some non-hazardous paint waste can be reprocessed or blended for reuse, reducing the volume that needs disposal. In industrial spaces, there might not be a need to reuse paints, but in other capacities, here is a list of DIY ways to reuse paint: Leftover Paint Projects

Additionally, nonprofit organizations like PaintCare make it relatively easy to recycle paint. If you live in the select areas PaintCare services, you could be eligible for their collection programs that recycle paint. 

Hazardous Waste Manifests

When transporting hazardous paint waste, you must use a hazardous waste manifest to document its journey from your facility to the disposal site. This document ensures that the waste is properly tracked and disposed of according to regulations.

Professional Assistance 

When it comes to managing paint waste, both hazardous and non-hazardous, seeking professional assistance is not just a choice, but rather a responsible and often legally mandated step. Industrial paint waste disposal can be complex, especially when dealing with hazardous materials. Professional waste management companies, environmental consultants, and regulatory agencies are valuable sources of expertise in handling paint waste. 

These experts can not only help you with compliance with environmental laws but also minimize the environmental impact and protect public health. Additionally, their help can save you time and resources.