Categories Home Improvement

How-To: Hazardous Household Waste Disposal (aka Paint!)

Information on how to dispose of hazardous household waste or toxic substances, like household paint, should be very easy to find. I recently set out to help a real estate client in the 11th hour of her move, with what she described as a “wall” of ancient paint cans. These were left by the previous homeowner and still contained latex paint.

I expected this to be pretty straightforward research but instead found myself in a surreal maze searching for the holy grail: EPA-compliant options, facilities, and events for the disposal of household paint in Essex County, NJ.

The top five most stressful life situations; death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, major illness, and…moving…Carla Labianca and I actually have a motto: Don’t EVER move. Just kidding. Sort of. We both know that moving can be one of the hardest endeavors a body can experience; physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

And just as you near the finish line of emptying your home for your move, you look over in the corner of the basement and see the thing you have been trying not to see since you began your move: the old paint cans left behind by the guy or gal who owned the house before you. 

Here are some options for you…

First off, if you think the paint in your cans might still be usable, test it by stirring and brushing it on newspaper – if there are no lumps, and no rancid odor, google organizations that accept paint donations. You might be able to help someone!

Latex Paint Disposal

If the paint in your cans is LATEX and no longer usable, discard the lid and add equal parts cat litter. (If there is more than a half can of paint, you can pour the paint into a receptacle and add the cat litter to that). Stir the cat litter and old paint together to thicken it, and then let it sit for at least an hour. Dispose of the now more solid substance in the garbage. You can either throw the paint can out in the garbage or recycle it, but check to make sure your municipality recycles paint cans.

Oil-based Paint Disposal

If the paint in your cans is OIL-BASED and no longer usable, you can haul your cans to the Essex County Utility Authority’s “Hazardous Waste Collection Day” in Cedar Grove, which happens twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring. You can learn more about it here. When I recently visited the site, the event’s date hadn’t yet been updated so I called the contact number and learned that the next event is on May 7th. If you are reading this after May 7th, you may need to call for the next event date.

Hazardous Waste Facility Options

There is one other potential option should you need to get rid of your oil-based paint cans sooner than one of the Essex County scheduled hazardous waste events. Through help from an in-the-know staff member of the recycling dept at Essex County Public Works, I learned that Morris County and Essex County have some sort of specific relationship and that Essex County residents can use Morris County hazardous waste facilities.

The website for Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority is here and has all of the info you need. The path that lands you on the page that offers hazardous waste drop-off dates is a bit circuitous: on the home page, on the lefthand side of the page, scroll down to “Hazardous / Special Wastes. On the Hazardous Wastes Page, under “Find It Fast”, click on “Permanent HHW Facility”. On the Hazardous Household Waste Facility page, scroll down to “Non- Morris County Residents”, click, and on that page you will find available dates for drop off. The disposal fee is $1.50 per lb.

If this all sounds like a pain in the butt, it is. But disposing of hazardous waste in ways that are not aligned with proper EPA guidelines will come back to bite you in that same butt.

And it’s the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, wishing you as much ease as possible in your move and all of your home decluttering/cleaning/organizing projects!

Not a resident of Essex County? Most Counties throughout the United States have similar information on their websites. Use keywords like “Hazardous Household Waste.”

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