By David Goldstein

Paint is one of the two most common items brought to publicly funded household hazardous waste collection events, but local residents actually have better options for their leftover paint.

The best option is reuse, and the best person to reuse paint is the person who bought it in the first place. This strategy requires proper storage. The first step to facilitate your own later reuse of your leftover paint is to indicate the level and color of paint in a can by using a brush to paint a line on the can’s exterior. After that, use a permanent marker to note the date on the can’s side and where the paint was previously used.

Paint Care, a nonprofit organization of paint manufacturers implementing programs to comply with California waste reduction mandates, maintains unopened paint in cans lasts decades if stored correctly in a dry, cool, dark place. According to their web site,, the primary way to ensure good storage is to avoid damaging the rim of the paint can. Open it with a paint key, rather than a screwdriver and close it with a rubber mallet or a piece of wood, rather than a hammer.

The web site also has complicated tips for keeping paint from clogging the channel along the edge of the lid, but the organization’s primary tip in this regard is simple; do not wipe your brush on the can’s rim while painting. Also, the site recommends putting a piece of plastic wrap across a can’s opening to form a tighter seal before re-closing the lid. For those most dedicated to preventing the thickening of stored paint, Paint Care recommends injecting an inert gas into the can before re-sealing it, but also acknowledges, as long as “you can stir paint into a smooth consistency, it’s still good.”

If you cannot reuse it, check whether friends or family can. Before listing it in an online reuse app, check whether paint is an allowable posting. Many sites, and most thrift stores also, do not accept paint. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores, which sell surplus and gently used home improvement items at their Oxnard and Simi Valley locations, accept only unopened cans of paint, according to John Nicolas, a ReStore receiver, scheduler and driver.

If storage and eventual reuse are not the answers for you, hazardous waste collection events are one type of public event which has continued during pandemic-induced social distancing. Better, because they cost less to staff and are open more hours, are specialized centers called ABOPs, which are publicly sponsored sites named for the list of items accepted: antifreeze, batteries, oil, and paint. Most also accept fluorescent lightbulbs.

For many, another option for paint is better than hazardous waste events or ABOPs. When you buy paint in California, you pay an “advanced disposal fee” to help cover the cost of safely managing the product’s waste. This “pay as you throw” or “polluter pays” system charges people in accordance with how much waste they are likely to produce, and the money goes mainly to retailers participating in state-mandated take-back programs, defraying retailers’ costs of managing waste from the products they sold.

For a list of paint stores accepting used paint, as well as contact numbers for ABOPs and household hazardous waste collection events, go to, and click on the “drop off site near you” tab. Call first, as some sites have limited hours or require appointments.

David Goldstein is an Environmental Resource Analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency