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State’s next recycling target: old paint

Minnesota is one House vote and one governor’s signature away from a first-in-the-nation law that makes it easier to recycle old paint.

The bill, which would establish retailers as sites for drop-offs, is designed as a national pilot program, and several other states are watching to see how we do.

“It’s intended to work out the bugs in the system, and then rolled out to other states on a defined schedule,” said Garth Hickle, who has the title of project stewardship team leader for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Earlier in April, the bill passed the Senate 63 to1. A vote is possible in the House as early as this week and Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign it. “There is strong support from local governments and retailers,” Hickle said. “We don’t see any major hiccups.”

State law prohibits liquid paint from being disposed in municipal waste streams. The current system provides for county-by-county drop-off sites, which in some rural counties may be many miles away and for almost everywhere else are at least not very convenient. The state currently helps pay for the collection in counties outside the metro area to the tune of $5 million per year; metro counties pay for it themselves.

The proposal, part of Minnesota’s Project Stewardship Policy, would help retailers collect old paint, establish an educational component to help folks buy the right amount of paint, and highlight the recycling work of places like Amazon Environmental in Roseville, which in 2006 processed 378,000 gallons of latex paint, producing 84,315 gallons as recycled paint and most of the rest into cement colorants.

To pay for the program, a fee not to exceed 50 cents per gallon will be set. “The only real difference residents will see is that retailers will offer that collection service,” Hickle said.

Similar programs exist in three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Leftover paint is the largest-volume material collected by the county hazardous waste sites in Minnesota. The state estimates that about 1.3 million gallons per year — 10 percent of the total volume of paint sold in the state – is not used, but less than half of it is dropped off at county sites, roughly 600,000 gallons.

That’s a lot of cans of leftover paint in the basement next to the furnace. 

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