Frequent Questions

How should paint be disposed? Is it a hazardous waste?

In general, hazardous waste regulations apply to materials which are first determined to be solid waste.  A solid waste is a hazardous waste if it is listed as a hazardous waste in Subpart D of 40 CFR Part 261, or if it exhibits a characteristic of hazardous waste as identified in Subpart C of 40 CFR, Part 261.  A generator may test the waste or use knowledge of the process ( or the material) to determine whether the waste generated is hazardous.  It is the responsibility of the generator of the paint waste to determine whether the waste is hazardous.  

Discarded paints generally are not found on EPA's "Lists of Hazardous Wastes" found at Subpart D of 40 CFR part 261.  However, discarded paints are considered hazardous waste if they exhibit a characteristic described at 40 CFR 262 Subpart C.  Paint wastes may exhibit characteristics such as ignitability or toxicity described at 40 CFR §§261.21 and 261.24.  Paint that is considered hazardous waste is subject to federal regulation under Parts 262 and 266, 268, 270 and other applicable provisions.  States however, may impose more stringent requirements than the Federal regulations and; therefore, must be contacted to determine what requirements might apply when managing paint wastes.

Generally, wastes from households are not subject to hazardous waste regulations.  Homeowners may discard the paint themselves as a municipal solid waste.  Therefore, the hazardous waste regulations do not apply to household waste, including household waste that has been collected, transported, stored, treated, disposed, recovered (e.g., refuse derived fuel) or reused.  "Household waste" means any material including garbage, trash and sanitary residues in septic tanks derived from households (including single and multiple residences, hotels, and motels, bunkhouses, ranger stations, crew quarters, campgrounds, picnic grounds and day-use recreation areas (§261.4(b)1).  Therefore, if the paint waste comes from a household, it would not be subject to the hazardous waste regulations.  Also, many communities operate a household hazardous waste collection or drop-off program where individuals are encouraged to keep paint cans separate and take them to the collection centers for recycling or disposal.

If you would also like to pursue other ways of disposing of household hazardous waste other than placing it in your household trash, we recommend the following URL: Exit EPA

The following guidance documents provide additional clarification on the regulatory statues of paint waste:

Memo, Horinko to Niebur, January 21, 2004, (RCRA Online #14647)
Memo, Cotsworth to Regions 1-10, July 31, 2000 (RCRA Online #14459)
Memo, Cotsworth to Thomas, April 11, 1997 (RCRA Online #14084)
Memo, Lowrance to Guimond, September 16, 1992 (RCRA Online #11697)
Memo, Williams to Sanioan, January 11, 1988 (RCRA Online #11314)

These documents are available at the following URL:

In addition, it is important to note that this guidance represents clarification of the Federal regulations. Most states are authorized to implement the Federal regulations. We recommend that you also contact your state's implementing agency to acquire additional information on paint waste. The Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) has compiled a complete list of waste program Web sites maintained by EPA Regional offices and state environmental agencies to help users locate the appropriate agency within their states.

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