Proponent seeks support for statewide paint recycling program


Staff Writer

Published: 06-04-2023 12:00 PM

ASHFIELD — Inspired by a model being used in Clifton Park, New York, Dalton resident Tom Irwin is going across Massachusetts to drum up support for a bill that would create a statewide paint recycling program.

The bill, H.823 and S.551, has been proposed six times in the state Legislature, failing to receive approval thus far, and was inspired by similar laws passed in 10 other states and Washington D.C.

Through a paint stewardship program, consumers would be charged a fee of less than $1 for a gallon of paint. They would then be able to return their paint cans containing unused paint free of charge to drop-off sites at participating paint retail stores and transfer stations.

The fee charged to consumers would go to the national nonprofit PaintCare, which would use the money to arrange for transportation of the recycled paint to paint collection and recycling centers. According to PaintCare’s website, 71% of all paint collected can be used as recycled paint, another 15% can be used for other purposes such as fuel and 9% ends up in the landfill.

“This program makes it easy for consumers to discard paint year-round,” Irwin, a retired engineer and physician, told attendees of an informational session at Belding Memorial Library in Ashfield.

The Retailers Association of Massachusetts is staunchly opposed to this bill, saying it would add a hidden tax to paint that would need to be paid for by consumers, even if they do not use the recycling service. Association Vice President Bill Rennie said in his testimony against the bill that Massachusetts residents would be incentivized with this added fee to purchase paint online or in the bordering state of New Hampshire.

“This legislation seeks to set up a third-party entity to collect and handle leftover paint at its end of life, paid for by adding a hidden fee onto every can of paint purchased in the commonwealth,” he said. “The fee is not disclosed to the consumer at the point of sale.”

Currently, there are two ways to dispose of latex-based and oil-based paint in Massachusetts. People can either pay a fee to get rid of their paint at a transfer station’s hazardous waste drop-off day or dry, unused cans of paint can be thrown out in a landfill.

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PaintCare was created by the American Coatings Association (ACA), a membership-based trade association of the paint manufacturing industry. They label this recycling program as a stewardship program, meaning all the parties involved have cooperatively agreed to participate. The association supported the passage of the nation’s first paint stewardship law in Oregon and established PaintCare in 2009. Neighboring states Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York all have this program in place.

“What makes this bill unique is that it is actually a cooperative agreement negotiated with and supported by all parties to the agreement: paint manufacturers, environmental groups, municipalities and retailers,” Irwin said.

Small paint retailers in participating states have not reported a burden created by this program, according to Irwin. The program could also act as a roadmap for creating stewardship programs with cooperative involvement to increase the proper disposal of hazardous waste, he argued.

Irwin noted that an estimated 10,000 gallons of paint would need to be recycled annually in Franklin County, which would likely be collected at three recycling centers. On the state level, he expects there would be 1.1 million gallons of recycled paint collected annually. Recolor, based in Hanover, would likely be responsible for processing the used paint, he said.

The legislation already has support from local representatives, senators and officials, including Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton; Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield; Sen. Paul Mark, D-Becket; and Jan Ameen, executive director of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District.

“We should do everything possible to prevent potential toxins from contaminating our environment, including reducing the amount of paint in landfills,” Comerford said in a statement about why she supports the bill.

“It is extremely difficult these days to get rid of excess paint,” Mark said in a statement. “When I have taken part in river or lake cleanups, I often come across many cans of paint, which is a direct result of the difficulty to properly recycle unused paint. This legislation would begin the process of providing safe, convenient and inexpensive ways to dispose of unused and unwanted paint supplies in an environmentally friendly manner.”

There will another information session on the bill at the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield on July 12.

Reach Bella Levavi
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