Properly Disposing of Paint and Consequences of Not Following Guidelines

Not properly disposing paint can be dangerous to individuals and even entire communities. Considered a toxic waste, there is a risk of serious illness or injury when exposed. Therefore, all parties should take appropriate measures to dispose of open or unused cans of paint.

How to Properly Dispose of Paint

Each state (and sometimes an individual city) has its own rules regarding the proper way to dispose of paint. In New York City, one option is to return unopened cans of paint to the locations where they were purchased. However, if a paint can hasn’t been opened and it’s latex-based, then it should be given to a waste drop-off site.

Once a can of paint has been opened and there is still some left, it can either be poured into some type of absorbent material (such as sand or cat litter) or allowed to dry out and then thrown out with the trash. Keep in mind that certain types of paint have special requirements for disposal.

As mentioned, latex paints should be taken to a special waste drop-off site, one of which is located in each borough. There are also special waste schedules that individuals should check, which are available through New York’s Department of Sanitation.

Oil-based paints are considered hazardous waste. Therefore, they cannot be put in the trash, but the Special Waste Drop-Off Sites do not take oil-based paints. Instead, consumers should contact a hazardous waste recycling facility for disposal.

Improper disposal could include: 

  • pouring paint down a drain or septic system;
  • throwing it into the trash; or
  • dumping it.

Any area where people may come into contact with the paint would be considered inappropriate.

Consequences of Improperly Disposing of Paint

The consequences for improper disposal may depend on whether it was done by a household or by a business. For instance, if it involves household hazardous waste (which includes paint), the individual could be fined. But it could be much more significant if a business dumps numerous containers of paint.

Generally, a violation results in a summons. Although the party summoned can pay the fine, it may still require an appearance before an Environmental Control Board (ECB). Those who wish to contest the summons can do so before an Administrative Law Judge; although some may be able to take care of it through the mail.

Another potential consequence is an environmental claim filed against the violator. This may include a company or even a property owner that hasn’t correctly disposed of its paint. It will not only be necessary to prove that the paint was improperly disposed, it must be connected to the claimant’s serious/life-threatening illness or injuries.

Hazards of Improper Disposal of Paint

While not the most dangerous chemical, paint is still considered hazardous because it can ignite. Not only does this expose someone to the risk of injury in a fire but also paint fumes can cause skin, lung and eye problems. If the paint contains lead, there is also the risk of ingesting paint chips that can cause lead poisoning.

The improper disposal of any type of hazardous waste can result in: 

  • water;
  • soil; and
  • air contamination.

Exposure to hazardous waste may cause immediate symptoms. But sometimes symptoms of a more serious health condition can be masked, especially when exposed over a longer period of time. It can take months or even years before an individual discovers he or she has suffered significant illness or injury.

Whether facing acute or chronic exposure to hazardous waste, those harmed can contact an attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates. Call 800-246-4878 to set up a consultation.

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