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How to dispose of paint

When decorating and updating your home, using paint is a great way to refresh any rooms that feel dull. Adding a splash of colour is the quickest way to add personality and style.

However, purchasing paint and decorating is the fun part — disposing of paint correctly and responsibly is when things start to get confusing, due to its hazardous nature.

Discover how to throw away paint with our tips and advice.

Can you put paint in a skip?

No, you can’t put paint in a skip. Paint contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic human-made chemicals that react with oxygen and can form ‘bad’ ozone in the presence of sunlight.

Chemicals such as these are a contributing factor to the greenhouse effect and one cause of global warming.

Petroleum is also an ingredient in some paint products. The use of petroleum in conventional paints is standard for the industry. Sadly, petroleum production is responsible for oil spills in protected wildlife areas worldwide.

What to do with leftover paint

Finishing your DIY project can be satisfying, but dealing with the aftermath can be a pain when you’re unsure how to dispose of it.

Leftover paint can be used for other projects, for example, by looking for places in your home where you can add some colour. Allow yourself to be creative and try something new!

Maybe you purchased too much paint and have a spare unopened tin getting in the way? Thankfully, you can return unopened cans to the store.

Alternatively, remaining open cans of paint can be donated. Various charities will take it off your hands where they will either re-use or dispose of it for you.

How to recycle paint

Full of pink paint tin, isolated on grey

Paint contains specialist ingredients created using non-renewable resources. This year, a study revealed that in 2022 nearly all (98%) of the UK’s waste paint will be either burnt or sent to landfill.

If you haven’t used all your paint and don’t have room to keep it, selling or donating paint is a great way to avoid wastage.

Online marketplaces, such as Facebook and Gumtree, are great places to list your unwanted paint in exchange for cash or for free. Posting will ensure the paint doesn’t go to waste — usually, someone will need it to finalise their project.

In Leeds, Seagulls Reuse is a local organisation that accepts paint donations and collects them from Leeds City Council Household waste.

Dulux has also partnered with Community Repaint, a scheme for donating and purchasing paint for households, businesses, groups, and schools across the UK.

How to throw away paint

Due to the nature of the product, it is not safe to pour paint down the sink, drain or put it into a skip, and doing so is dangerous and illegal.

If you only have a small amount of paint that isn’t worth donating or recycling, check with your local area bin disposal to see if they accept dry paint with your bin collections. Before collection, you need to harden the remaining product.

How to harden paint

Hardening paint is easy and valuable to know before purchasing the product, as it prevents hard-to-clean spillages when taking paint cans to the disposal centre.

If you want to harden the paint, add sawdust or soil to the remaining paint and mix it in. Leave the mixture alone and in a safe place for a few hours to harden. Once this is completed, it can be taken to your local recycling.

How to safely dispose of white spirit

Like paint, white spirit should never be poured down the sink or thrown into a skip.

White spirit is a petroleum-based solvent and can float on the water surface. If it enters our water system, it can damage the environment, hurt animals and contaminate drinking water.

White spirit can also damage household pipes, which are costly to repair. If your local waste collection cannot accept solvents, they can usually recommend a hazardous waste disposal company.

How to safely dispose of paint thinner

Like white spirit, paint thinner is hazardous and can’t be poured down the sink or thrown into a skip. However, it is recyclable.

To recycle paint thinner, pour the used paint thinner into a transparent pot with a sealed lid, then wait for the paint to sink to the base of the pot. Once it’s separated, the paint thinner is ready to be reused. Dispose of the leftover paint following the usual hardening process.

You can contact a hazardous waste collection company if you do not want to recycle paint thinner.

How to recycle old paint tins

A collection of paint cans, buckets, toxic and hazardous material stacked. Hazardous waste.

Once you have hardened and disposed of the remaining paint, you are left with empty paint tins. Luckily, old tins offer plenty of creative opportunities.

  • Re-paint leftover cans and turn them into planters for the garden
  • Paint the cans and make them into peg holders
  • Homemade candles– works best on smaller paint cans
  • Paint the tins and turn them into organizers
  • Turn the empty paint tin into an ice bucket ready for summer BBQs.

How to dispose of paint tins

The answer is yes if you’re wondering if you can put paint tins into a skip. Clean and empty paint tins are OK to include in skip waste. If you are planning to hire a skip for household painting and decorating, this is one way to get rid of empty paint cans safely and correctly. Check out our guide on what to put in a skip for further information.