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  • Writer's pictureDiana Dudenhoeffer

'Painting the big picture' of paint recycling legislation in Missouri

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels

If you have at least one partially filled paint can left over from a recent home-improvement project, you’re not alone. An estimated 1.3 million gallons of paint go unused each year in Missouri, around 10% of all paint sold. That’s enough to paint 52,000 two-story houses! With all that unused product, consumers need robust systems for responsible disposal.

District O residents with leftover paint currently have two options: either dry it out with a paint hardener or kitty litter and then toss it in the landfill (recommended for latex paints), or drop it off at a household hazardous waste collection center (oil-based paints only).

HHW programs like the Household Chemicals Collections Center in Springfield seem to be a reasonable alternative to landfilling, at least at first glance. But paint makes up more than half of the total material received by HHW centers—and at the same time, paint is the most expensive product to process there. In fact, if all our leftover paint were processed via HHW programs, it’d cost the state more than $12 million each year.

Map via Lisa McDaniel

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Springfield’s HCCC can only accept oil-based paints. There is currently no disposal option for latex paints other than landfilling.

The solution? The Missouri Product Stewardship Council says paint recycling is the way to go.

MOPSC is a cooperative effort among solid waste districts, nonprofits, municipalities, state government agencies and the global Product Stewardship Institute. The council exists to build capacity for product stewardship in the state.

The council says product stewardship programs, for paint and other hard-to-recycle products like mattresses or medications, can reduce generation, promote reuse and manage a good’s end-of-life in an environmentally friendly way by collecting, transporting, processing and disposing of them responsibly.

They describe product stewardship as an environmentally conscious consumerism that “hold(s) companies responsible for the full life cycle of products they put onto the market, helps fund sustainable recycling infrastructure and minimizes the negative environmental health impacts of consumer products.”

MOPSC maintains recycling is a critical alternative to landfilling because paint is categorized as hazardous. “When dumped in the trash or down the drain, unused paint can contaminate our environment with volatile organic compounds, fungicides, and (in the case of very old paint) hazardous metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium,” the MOPSC website says.

Not only will recycled paint ease the burden on collection programs like the HCCC and prevent environmental hazards in nature, recycled paint is a high-quality product. While there aren’t always as many color options, recycled paint performs equally to virgin paint, said Lisa McDaniel, MOPSC chair.

Discovery Center image via Missouri Product Stewardship Council website

In January 2022, a collaboration between MOPSC and the PSI launched a series of recycled paint demonstrations in the state using paint manufactured by GDB International and Amazon Paint. The demonstrations included a series of high-profile sites to illustrate the quality, affordability and sustainability of the recycled product. Sites included the Discovery Center in Springfield, the Springfield Sprouts Discovery Preschool, historic buildings in Ash Grove and the Missouri State Parks Warehouse at Lake of the Ozarks.

A paint stewardship bill (HB2852) was filed last year in the Missouri House of Representatives. Introduced by Rep. Jamie Berger of Benton, the bill would have required paint manufacturers to establish a paint recycling program, and it would have prohibited the sale of paint in the absence of such a program.

MOPSC, which provides educational resources for paint recycling, looked at existing legislation in other states from which to model their own bill. One example is Colorado. Legislators there calculated the cost of the program and added it to the store price of the paint:

  • Half a pint or less = no additional charge

  • Larger than one paint but less than one gallon = 35 cents

  • One gallon = 75 cents

  • Larger than one gallon to five gallons = $1.60

In the Centennial State, manufacturers pay monthly fees to stewardship organizations based on the quantity of paint sales. Those fees are passed onto distributors and retailers, who in turn add them to the purchase price of the paint.

Berger’s Missouri paint stewardship bill was assigned to a committee, and later a public hearing was completed. After the hearing, the bill didn’t come up for a vote, which means it reached a dead end for that legislative session.

Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi and New Jersey all have legislative efforts in progress alongside Missouri.

Colorado isn’t alone, either. Nearly a dozen states, including Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Vermont, Maine, Washington State, New York and the District of Columbia all have paint stewardship laws.

And those laws have been successful, MOPSC says. PaintCare, a nonprofit that operates paint stewardship programs, has collected more than 60 million gallons of paint and saved local governments around $240 million.

MOPSC says they’re confident Missouri can reap these benefits, too, if paint stewardship legislation passes. Rep. Burger told MOPSC this September that he will likely file a new bill in the House for the 2023 legislative session, but that he is still searching for a colleague in the Senate to sponsor the bill with him.

In the meantime, the MOPSC plans to continue showcasing the durability and quality of recycled paint at additional demonstration sites in the Ozarks. With grant funding from District O, the following locations will receive a new coat of recycled paint this fall:

Photos by Diana Dudenhoeffer

The Grant Avenue Bridge was closed to vehicular traffic years ago, says Ozarks Greenways Frisco Highline Trail Manager John Montgomery, but it remains open for bicycles, pedestrians and anglers. The popular fishing spot will see a fresh coat of paint this fall with help from a local Eagle Scout troop.

Photos by Diana Dudenhoeffer

The urban development nonprofit, whose focus is revitalizing community infrastructure in Springfield, purchased this house last year in Grant Beach Neighborhood. This home is one of more than a dozen properties in Grant Beach being flipped with the Blue House Project, a homeownership program helmed by the foundation.

An abatement team is removing lead paint from the original wood siding and will use recycled paint on the exterior to preserve the wood, says Drew Lewis Foundation Founder and CEO Amy Blansit.

Original owners Leo and Anna bought the home in 1944 when Leo came home after the WWII draft. They had a greenhouse in the backyard, and Anna grew lots of flowers. Blansit says their grandson, Paul, told her he remembers visiting the home and visiting the nearby Fairbanks playground to play catch with his grandfather.

Apartment Hallways at The Kitchen, Inc.'s Franciscan Villa

Photos by Diana Dudenhoeffer

The Kitchen is a Springfield nonprofit with a mission to end homelessness in the area. It also runs several low-income housing developments in town, one of which got a fresh coat of paint this fall. The Franciscan Villa at 620 W. Scott Street, a 100+ year old building previously owned by Mercy Hospital, now has 104 single occupancy units.

Hallways on the second floor got new blue paint thanks to volunteers from Expedia Group. Director of Assets & Properties Jeff Rens says The Kitchen is so happy with the quality of the recycled paint that they’re eager to purchase more for the rest of the apartment’s hallways.

Photos by Diana Dudenhoeffer

Community Outreach Ministries is a faith-based charity in Bolivar, MO with a mission to eliminate poverty and hunger in Polk County. The organization hosts case management services and operates a food pantry, thrift store and recycling drop off facility.

The food pantry, which reopened for in-person shopping earlier this year, was due for a fresh coat of paint. COM volunteers completed painting the large room in early November. COM executive director Micah Titterington said he is pleased with the quality of the recycled paint and loves the color.

Looking to learn more about paint recycling? Visit the MOPSC website.


About the Author

Diana Dudenhoeffer is a multimedia journalist in Springfield, Missouri. She studied journalism, sustainability and documentary storytelling at Missouri State University. She is the current media intern at OHRD, writing blogposts like this one.


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