Guest Column: Saving West Virginia’s Environment Through a Paint-Recycling Program

By Princeton Senior High School Business and Marketing Class

The Business & Marketing students at Princeton Sr. High School (Mercer County, West Virginia) are currently working on a Business Plan that involves the safe collection of water-based latex paint and containers that could ultimately be recycled for reuse.  We are beginning our project by obtaining data related to this concept as it relates to the paint collection system currently in place in West Virginia as well as the processes involved in paint recycling, benefits of such a plan, and the availability of funding that may possibly turn our idea into a reality.

To date we have completed a great deal of research related to this concept.  The Product Stewardship Institute (2020) states “About 10% of all household latex paint goes unused in the U.S. – that’s about 80 million gallons each year.  When dumped in the trash or down the drain, unused paint can contaminate our environment with volatile organic compounds.”  Based on our research we have determined that most leftover paint can be easily reused, recycled into new paint, or repurposed into other products.  “For any water based latex paint that cannot be recycled into a useful coating, it can be reused in asphalt or concrete” (Coastal Virginia Environmental Coatings, Inc., 2017).   Because of the lack of actual disposal sites conveniently located throughout our state, most people have no idea where to take their used paint and containers leaving them with no other choice than to dispose these items in their local landfills,

Unfortunately, our continued research indicates “paint is the most expensive product for local household hazardous waste programs to manage, costing governments and taxpayers across the country millions of dollars” (Product Steward Institute, 2020).  As a way of bringing awareness to the state of West Virginia regarding the damage improper disposal of paint is creating for the environment, we have found substantial evidence regarding the benefits of recycling water-based latex paint (Coastal Virginia Environmental Coatings, Inc., 2017):

  1. Estimated to save more energy per pound than recycling steel, lumber and glass
  2. Decreases disposal into landfills
  3. Approximately 100 kilowatt hours of energy is saved
  4. Avoids the release of 115 pounds of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be needed to produce that energy
  5. Reduces greenhouse emissions
  6. Creates less emissions which results in less pollution
  7. Saves approximately 13 gallons of water in new paint production facilities to produce and package one gallon of new paint
  8. Creates jobs within those states actively involved in sustainable paint collection for recycling purposes

While we are fully aware of the numerous obstacles our paint recycling concept will face such as how to educate consumers in the proper disposal of latex water-based paint, finding convenient drop-off locations and appropriate storage facilities, securing the funding necessary to sustain the project, and determining how to transport the collected paint and containers to a recycling center, we believe these challenges are necessary as a way of preventing at least one source of pollution in our state.  As high school students we know that we cannot take on this task alone, therefore, it is our goal to secure grant funding that would afford us the possibility of selecting a reputable consultant who is well-versed in the overall operation of paint recycling with the hope of conducting a six-nine month feasibility study that could lead to the successful implementation of a much-needed solution to the mounting problem of disposing of paint that is increasingly damaging our environment. 

We realize this process is expensive and time consuming, however, as students at Princeton Sr. High School, we strongly feel this is one step toward ensuring a cleaner environment, therefore, we are choosing to dedicate our time to this important issue with the hope of informing the citizens of West Virginia about the advantages and possibilities involved in taking a few simple steps to eliminate at least one source of pollution in our beautiful state.

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Updated: March 26, 2021 — 2:32 pm

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