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Monday, May 21, 2012

Good-bye, old paint

Walsh bill would enact industry-supported recycling program for paint
News release from State Representative Donna Walsh

Unused paint is one of the largest components of household hazardous waste collections, and Rep. Donna Walsh is sponsoring legislation that would pave the way for a program to give paint companies responsibility for collecting and properly reusing, recycling or otherwise disposing of it.

The program, which is already in place in Oregon and has been approved in Connecticut and California, is supported by the paint industry, which formed a nonprofit organization, Paint Care, that would administer the program in Rhode Island.

“I’ve been advocating for years for legislation that gives manufacturers some responsibility for what happens with the waste their products ultimately create, because it would give them incentive to make them in ways that result in less waste. This is a fantastic opportunity to institute that idea for one industry that is voluntarily creating the program on its own,” said Representative Walsh.

Representative Walsh’s legislation (2012-H 7233A) calls for the creation of an unused paint recycling program in Rhode Island, managed by a paint trade organization created for that purpose and funded by a small surcharge on retail paint products, paid by consumers. Retailers who sell paint would be required to supply information on where to return unused paint. Only those manufacturers who participate in the program would be allowed to sell paint products in Rhode Island.  

The legislation specifies that the assessment will be used to fund paint collection, reuse, recycling and disposal activities. The financing system, under the legislation, must be approved by the Department of Environmental Management and the surcharges cannot exceed the costs of the program. (In Oregon, the surcharges are currently 35 cents for paint cans between a ½ pint and 1 quart, 75 cents for those between a quart and a gallon, and $1.60 for 1- to 5-gallon sizes.)

The legislation also calls for consumer education and outreach, and the establishment of convenient collection sites around the state.

Some paints can be recycled right back into paint that is of comparable quality to virgin paint. Others can be used as components of other materials, like cement. It can also be used for biomass fuel production as a binding material for more efficient burning.

Representative Walsh noted that besides the environmental benefits of creating a paint recycling program, the move would save the state money, since currently the responsibility for disposing of paint as hazardous waste falls to the state, which collects oil-based paint through the Eco-Depot hazardous waste program. 

Latex paint can be hardened and disposed of in the trash, but that means cities and towns pay to haul it away to take up space in the state landfill. Representative Walsh’s proposal would mean that the state would no longer be spending any resources on collecting or disposing of the paint collected by the program.
The bill is currently before the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Representative Walsh is also sponsoring legislation to establish a product stewardship program to govern the disposal of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

CFL bulbs, while significantly more energy efficient and long-lasting than traditional light bulbs, contain 4 to 5 milligrams of mercury each. As long as the mercury is contained within the light bulb, it poses no harm to humans or the environment. But even small amounts of mercury can pollute drinking water, and when those light bulbs are tossed in the trash and crushed, the mercury in each can be released into the environment.

That legislation (2012-H 7443), which is also before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, would require the Department of Environmental Management to create a product stewardship program that would involve manufacturers of CFLs in the responsibility for dealing with CFLs when they have reached the end of their useful lives.

The legislation would require the DEM to determine how best to deal with CFLs, but would allow the development or implementation of such a program to be handed off to a voluntary industry group – like Paint Care for the paint industry – if the group’s efforts meet stringent standards.

Any stewardship plan would have to involve recovery and recycling, reusing or otherwise properly disposing of all parts of the product, and would need to be paid for at the time the product is purchased, not at the time of its disposal.

Representative Walsh said she believes that many more products should be the subjects of product stewardship programs because the companies that create the products have all the control when it comes to creating them in ways that reduce waste. She is also the sponsor of a bill (2012-H 7027A) to create a legislative commission to study ways to enact product stewardship for paper and packaging materials.

“Right now, product manufacturers can use lots of excess packaging and materials that aren’t easily recyclable, because they have no responsibility for what happens to them when the consumer is done with them. As senseless as it is, our struggling cities and towns end up footing the bill for hauling all that trash away, and the state ends up with permanent custody of it in the landfill. Even if we have to do it one product at a time, product stewardship is good for the environment, for cities and towns and the state, and for consumers,” said Representative Walsh.