Reducing Paint Waste in New York

Earlier this month, the New York State Senate unanimously passed S. 4351, which establishes a responsible system for the collection, recycling, and proper disposal of leftover paint products. The companion bill, A. 6373, passed the Assembly on the last day of the legislative session.

Improper disposal of hazardous paint products presents a serious issue for our landfills, local governments, and sanitation workers. According to the Product Stewardship Institute, nearly 4 million gallons of architectural paint go unused annually in New York State, and municipal governments spend an estimated $31 million to dispose of these paint products. Municipal sanitation workers then carry out this disposal, exposing them to potentially hazardous pollutants.

A postconsumer paint collection program would promote the responsible handling of paint products. It would reduce or eliminate potentially hazardous substances from burdening our landfills, save local governments money, and protect the health of sanitation workers.

Under a paint stewardship program, manufacturers are responsible for the creation of a statewide system for collecting paint, as well as annual reports on program performance. Retailers will only be permitted to sell paint produced by manufacturers that are compliant with state standards. Holding manufacturers accountable for disposal and recycling reduces the burden on government and taxpayers. In addition, these programs help states meet recycling goals by repurposing paint products that would have otherwise been wasted. Unused paint can be re-blended, repackaged, and re-processed to avoid the environmental impact of disposal.

There is a precedent for these programs across the country. Nine states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) and D.C. have already implemented similar programs, with great results. Oregon has recycled over a million gallons of paint under its program, and California has opened over 350 new paint collection locations. Now New York is poised to implement a program that is modeled on these successful laws.

Paint stewardship legislation has been discussed in the New York State Legislature since 2016 but the State Assembly had not acted on it until this year, after NYLCV members took action and asked their representatives to vote for the bill.