Got paint?

Leftover paint is the most common material residents bring to their community household hazardous waste collection facilities and events. The cost of leftover paint is not cheap – for either the resident – or for the programs that accept and manage leftover paint. Learn how to save money and avoid leftover paint with these tips.

Buy the Right Amount

Buy the right amount of paint for your job.

Many people have leftover paint because it’s not always easy to know how much paint to purchase in the first place. Tip: Plan.  When estimating how much paint you need, measure the space you plan to paint and bring your measurements to the paint store and ask staff for expert advice on how much paint to buy. You can also use a paint calculator. Try www.paintcare.org/paint-calculators.

If you do buy too much, store it properly so it can be used it for future projects.

Storage Tips

Here are a few tips to properly store your paint.

Protect the Lids:  When opening a paint can, use a paint key instead of a typical screwdriver or other tool. Screwdrivers will bend, distort, or otherwise damage the lid, making it difficult to put back on. When putting the lid back on the can, tap it with a rubber mallet. If you don’t have a mallet, place a piece of wood or a book between a hammer and the lid and then carefully tap it down.

Keep the Rim Clean:  If you wipe the edge of your brush on the rim of a paint can, you will end up with a rim full of accumulated paint. If you use up all the paint, that’s not a problem. But if you want to reseal the can and save it for later, you will have trouble getting the lid on tight. Follow these tips to keep the rim clean and clear:

  1. Poke holes in the rim with a medium size nail or awl so that paint drips back into the can and doesn’t accumulate in the rim.
  2. While you are working and using a brush, pour paint from the original can into a paint tray. This will also allow you to close the original can while you are working and keep air from drying out the paint.
  3. Try securely strapping a rubber band around the top of the paint can. This can be used to clean the edge of a paint brush, making a more efficient painting experience.
  4. Cover the opening with a piece of plastic wrap before putting on the lid. The plastic will act as a gasket, creating a tighter seal.

Keep The Paint from Freezing:  Water-based paint labels normally read “keep from freezing,” but did you know that paint may still be usable even after it freezes once or twice? If you can stir paint into a smooth consistency, it’s still good. If it freezes and thaws several times, its condition will worsen each time. If you stir paint and it stays lumpy and doesn’t get smooth, it’s spoiled.

Keep Out of the Rain or Damp Locations:  When cans get wet, they rust, and the labels fall off. Even plastic cans have metal lids that can rust. Rusty cans and lids make a mess and fall apart when handled. The rust may fall into the paint, making it unusable. If the label falls off, you won’t know what type of paint or color is in the can. Keep your paint dry.

Keep the cans rust free.

Use it up!

Another way to manage your leftover paint is to use up what you have. A gallon or more can be used as a primer for other paint projects. A small amount can be used to paint a small space or experiment with updating a window frame or freshening up a bookshelf.

If you still have paint leftover, consider giving it away if it is in good condition. Friends, relatives, community groups and artists may be able to benefit from this useful resource.

These are just a few tips to reduce the amount of paint you buy in the first place, and to make the paint you do have, last longer. As a last resort, please properly dispose of your leftover paint at your community household hazardous waste collection program.

Reuse and recycle your unwanted toys

It’s that time of year when new toys move in and old toys move out. Ensure that the old toys get a second life by reusing and recycling them instead of throwing them away.

Donate

Photo of bathroom sink counter with soap dispenser, plastic shark toy, and toothbrush holder made from Legos.Donating old toys is the easiest option. As long as toys are clean and in good working condition, you can donate them to thrift stores and local charities. Most large thrift stores offer pick up services. You can also drop your toys off at the nearest donation box (only toys that will easily fit in the box’s door).

Three organizations that accept toys for donation and work with local kids and families in need are Operation Breakthrough, Scraps KC and The Giving Brick.

Host a toy swap

Avoid the after-the-holiday blahs by hosting a toy swap. It is a great way to clean out the closet, help the environment, and help stave off you and your kids’ cabin fever.

Recycle electronic toys

Whether it’s a broken video game, remote control car or a Nerf Blaster, it’s all recyclable. Midwest Recycling Center and The Surplus Exchange both recycle all toys that run on batteries or a power cord. If you have a video game junkie in your home, you can recycle old gaming devices at Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot / Office Max.

Repurpose

Who knew toys can be made into a wreath, a toothbrush holder or bookends? Search “How to repurpose toys” on the internet, and you’ll find countless cool things to make from unwanted toys.

For more information on reuse and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

On the road again? Don’t forget to recycle.

You may be a master recycler at home, but what about when you’re on the road? Summer vacations are just around the corner. Wherever your travels might take you, be sure to reduce, reuse and recycle along the way.  Here are some helpful tips:

  • Pack it in, recycle it out Many national parks offer recycling. So whether your camping or just driving the park loop, please help keep our national parks clean and green. Photo Caption: Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National parkCheck ahead — Planning for recycling on your road trip is just as important as remembering to pack your tooth brush and phone charger. Contact the places you’ll be staying (campground, motel, resort, etc.) to find out what recycling services they offer. Once you arrive, lodging staff should be able to direct you to a recycling location on- or off-site. Another great resource is iRecycle, an app developed by Earth911 to provide recycling information and locations for the USA, and parts of Mexico and Canada. Both EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com and the Green Hotel Association can help you find lodging that offers recycling.
  • Contain it — You’ll need a way to contain your recyclables and trash while you’re on the road. Bring a container (bag, bin, etc.) for each. If you’re staying someplace that doesn’t offer recycling, bring your own container to hold recyclables until you reach someplace that does.
  • Let it rot — If you compost at home, you can compost on the road, too. Take an airtight plastic container or two to store your compostables until you get back home.
  • Reduce packaging — Space is always at a premium when you’re on the road, so choose items with little or no packaging. Avoid items that are individually wrapped. If you end up with candy wrappers or chip bags, check with TerraCycle, a company that prides itself in recycling everything.
  • Leave only small “food prints” — Eating out on the road is expensive both in terms of your pocket book and energy and resources. Pre-purchase snacks, drinks and food, keep perishables in a cooler, and visit a local grocery store when you run low.
  • Go for unique souvenirs — Consider buying goods by local artists to support the local economy and buy fair trade items when available. If you’re buying gifts for others, use your old road map or a brochure as gift wrap.
  • Pack your reusable bags — Always pack a few reusable bags for souvenirs and those on-the-road grocery stops.
  • Just say no to “Would you like a box for that?” — Remember to take plastic food storage containers for your restaurant leftovers. They’re easier to pack in a cooler than flimsy takeout containers, and they keep food fresh longer.
  • Reduce, reuse, rehydrate — Take reusable mugs and bottles for all your road trip drinks.

For information on where you can take your recyclables once you get home, visit RecycleSpot.org, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

How much trash do you send to the landfill?

trashThe answer depends on who you ask and how you define “trash.” There are two main sources for nationwide solid waste management data in the United States:

The two sources use different methodologies and as a result provide different answers to the question. The EPA determines the size of the waste stream using manufacturing production data, estimates of product imports and exports and estimated product life. Estimates for the generation of food and yard waste are based on sampling studies. EPA has used this methodology consistently for over 40 years, which allows for analyses of long-term trends. EPA defines “municipal solid waste” — or trash, as most of us call it — as everyday items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, cans, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, consumer electronics and batteries. These items come from homes, institutions such as schools and hospitals, and commercial sources such as restaurants and small businesses. EPA’s definition does not include municipal wastewater treatment sludge, industrial process waste, automobile bodies, combustion ash or construction and demolition debris.

The editors of BioCycle Magazine began a national survey in 1989 using state-gathered data from disposal, recycling and composting facilities. While this methodology uses actual tonnages, it should be noted that states do not define municipal solid waste consistently. For example, states often include non-hazardous solid wastes — such as construction and demolition debris and industrial waste — in their data, unlike the EPA.

So, what is the answer to the original question? How much trash DO you send to the landfill?

  • EPA estimates that the average American produced 4.38 pounds of trash per day in 2012. About a third of that was recycled and the remaining 2.87 pounds were burned or sent to a landfill.
  • The latest BioCycle national survey, conducted by Columbia University, estimates that each person generated 6.84 pounds of trash per day in 2011. Again, approximately a third of that was recycled or composted and the remaining 4.86 pounds were burned or sent to a landfill.

Stay tuned for a post that will look closer to home and assess regional data to better answer this question.

EPA releases new solid waste and recycling numbers

Since 1960, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has collected and reported data on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States. The EPA recently released figures for 2011, revealing long-term trends on what we are recycling and throwing away.

Long-term trends
What do these long-term trends show? In 1960, we generated 88 million tons of waste and recycled 6 percent of it (5.6 million tons). In 2011, we generated about 250 million tons of waste and recycled and composted about 87 million tons of it, for a recycling rate of 35 percent. But while we are recycling more, we are also generating more than we did in 1960.Line Graph showing amounts of waste Generated, Recycled, and Discarded- each in pounds per person. From 1960 - 2011.
How much of this increased generation can be attributed to population growth? If you take population into account, we find that individuals are recycling more and throwing away less than they did in 1960. Solid waste generation peaked in the year 2000.

Recycling in 2011
What are we best at recycling? Almost 84 percent of the 87 million tons we recycled was made up of paper and paperboard, yard trimmings and metals.

The EPA report also includes a breakdown of 2011 recycling rates of various products:

  • Auto batteries were recycled the most frequently, at 96.2 percent
  • Newspapers and mechanical paper made up 72.5 percent
  • Steel cans, 70.6 percent
  • Yard trimmings, 57.3 percent
  • Aluminum cans, 54.5 percent
  • Tires, 44.6 percent
  • Glass containers, 34.2 percent
  • PET bottles and jars, 29.2 percent
  • HDPE bottles, 21.0 percent

totalRecoveryThe EPA estimates that our recycling reduced more than 183 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from 34 million passenger vehicles) and saved more than 1.1 quadrillion Btu of energy (enough to power 10 million U.S. households for a year).

Discards in 2011
What are we still throwing away? Food waste represents more than 21 percent of our discards (see an earlier blog about reducing your foodprint). After food, plastics weigh in at nearly 18 percent and paper and paperboard still makes up 15 percent.Pie Chart depicting the percentages of different materials that make up total discarded municipal Solid Waste

Learn more
Learn more about what we throw away nationally (fact sheet, full report and infographic) and what you can do to make a difference locally.