old paint tins guide to paint disposal

How to Dispose of Paint and Old Paint Cans – Ultimate Guide for Householders

14 July 2021

Paint disposal is a problem for all of us whether you live in a flat or a house.  If you have no idea how to dispose of empty, full or half-full paint tins, this guide covers all of your paint disposal options.  We've included some London specific information, but in practise the disposal options listed below are the same pretty much wherever you live in the UK. This How to Dispose of Paint guide covers:

  1. How NOT to dispose of paint
  2. Keep it for a rainy day
  3. Return to store
  4. Donate
  5. Put it in your bin
  6. Take it to a tip
  7. Use council to collect
  8. Pay a specialist
  9. How long does it take paint to harden?
  10. How do you dispose of paint thinner, solvents and white spirits?
  11. How do you dispose of empty spray paints?

1. How not to dispose of paint

You shouldn’t pour paint down the drain because it’s a flammable, hazardous liquid.  Pouring it into your plumbing system can cause toxic fumes to release into your home, as well as coating the inside of the pipes which can end up clogging the drains.

You also shouldn’t dispose of paint by mixing it in with your other rubbish, i.e your household bin, a skip or hide it with other non-hazardous rubbish being collected by a waste contractor.  This is because it’s a hazardous material and therefore needs to be disposed of differently.


2. How to store paint for reuse

Before disposing of your paint, you may want to consider if you really need to get rid of it.  High-quality paint can last up to 10 years so if you think there’s any chance you might want to use that colour again, it’s worth storing it away for a rainy day.

When you have less than half a paint tin left, it’s best to store the paint in something like a jar rather than the original tin.  This is because the smaller containers have a smaller paint-to-air ratio, meaning the paint won’t dry up as quickly.  If you have quite a lot of paint left and you’re keeping it in the original tin, make sure to clean the inside of the lid so there won’t be any dried up paint flakes that could fall in.

Another top tip for storing paint is to keep it in a cool, dry place.  Really cold places can make paint curdle and humid places can cause the can to rust and rust flakes can fall into the paint - not ideal!


3. Can I return paint to the store I bought it from?

Most DIY stores will offer a refund / take back if the paint is unused or if you aren’t happy with the colour.  For example, B&Q will exchange/refund if the paint was purchased less than 185 days ago.  So, if you haven’t used your paint, check out the retailer’s refund policy and save the paint from being disposed of.

community repaint donation

4. Can I donate paint?

An alternative to disposing of your paint is donation.  Assuming your friends and family don’t want your paint, there are numerous community schemes and charities that accept paint.  

Community RePaint has schemes for households, businesses, groups and schools. They work with local authorities, manufacturers, retailers, businesses and housing associations across the UK. Community RePaint often charges the nominal sum of £1 per litre for the paint, which helps them keep their community business and charity running. 

There are also charities such as Work and Play Scrapstore in Wandsworth that accepts paint direct.

Forest Recycling Group accept only businesses and traders to donate paint to this scheme – they do not accept paint from householders. The scheme collects householder leftover paint from dedicated drop-off points across London, which are located at various recycling centres. The nearest would be the Southwark Recycling Centre, however, only residents of the Southwark borough are permitted to enter site.

There are also online platforms where you can advertise your paint for reuse and maybe even make some money from it.  Platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay are great if you’re looking to make a profit, but if you want to give your paint away for free, you could try the likes of Freegle and Freecycle. 


5. Can I put paint in the bin?

You can’t just put any paint type in your bin - oil-based paint is hazardous and can’t be thrown in the bin, even if the paint has hardened.  However, you can dispose of water-based paint (emulsion) in your bin but it first needs to be fully dried out.

If you have small amounts of paint, we’d recommend pouring it onto cardboard or newspaper, leaving it to dry and then disposing of it in your bin as normal.

If you have a decent amount of paint left, you’ll need to take the lid off and leave it out to dry.  To speed up the drying process, you can put sand / sawdust / paint hardener in.  Once the paint has hardened, it can be disposed of.

Also, if you have any empty paint tins, plastic containers or clean lids, you can include them in your recycling.


6. Can I take paint to the tip?

You can normally dispose of paint cans at your local HWRC, also known as the tip.  Unless your tip has a paint reuse scheme, you’ll have to make sure the paint has fully dried before taking it for disposal. It is important to note that you can only visit a recycling site of the borough where you are a resident. 

Below is a table of all London tips and whether or not they accept paint for disposal:


HWRC accept paint
Acton Re-use and Recycling Centre no
Barking & Dagenham, Frizlands Lane Recycling Centre yes
Barnet Civic Amenity Site yes
Bracknell Household Waste Recycling Centre yes
Brent, Abbey Road Brent Recycling Centre yes
Bromley, Churchfields Road resue and recycling centre yes
Camden, Regis Road Recycling Centre yes
Croydon, Factory Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre yes
Ealing, Greenford Re-use and Recycling Centre yes
Enfield, Barrowell Green Civic Amenity Site yes
Greenwich Reuse and Recycling Centre no
Haringey, Western Road Reuse & Recycling Centre no
Harrow Recycling Centre yes
Havering, Gerpins Lane Re-use and Recycling Centre yes
Hillingdon, New Years Green Lane yes
Hillingdon, West Drayton civic amenity site yes
Hounslow, Space Waye Recycling Centre yes
Islington, Hornsey Street Reuse and Recycling Centre no
Kingston Household Reuse and Recycling Centre yes
Lambeth Household Recycling Centre no
Lewisham Reuse and Recycling Centre no
Merton Recycling and Reuse Centre yes
Newham, Jenkins Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre yes
Redbridge, Chigwell Road Reuse and Recycling Centre yes
Richmond, Townmead Road Re-use and Recycling Centre yes
Southwark Household Reuse & Recycling Centre yes
Sutton Reuse and Recycling Centre yes
Tower Hamlets Reuse and Recycling Centre yes
Waltham Forest Reuse and Recycling Centre yes
Wandsworth, Smugglers Way HWRC yes


7. Will the council collect old paint?

Using your local council’s bulky waste collection service is another waste disposal option to consider.  Not all councils will accept though and many have a separate collection service for hazardous waste.

Only 2 councils in London accept paint as part of their bulky waste service - Barnet and Hammersmith & Fulham council, but the latter only accepts paint that is full or part full as they give it to the London Reuse Network.

However, most London councils offer another collection alternative.  City of London runs a hazardous waste collection (which includes the collection of paint) on behalf of 30 out of 32 London councils.  The other two councils not included are Haringey and Hillingdon who advise you to either take your paint to your local HWRC or, if it’s a water-based paint, let it dry out and dispose of it with your normal rubbish.


8. Pay a specialist

You can find specialist paint / hazardous waste disposal companies online but you must check beforehand that they have the required licenses to legally dispose of paint.

Waste removal companies disposing of paint require an upper-tier waste carrier’s license awarded by the Environment Agency - you can check if they have a valid license here.  Upper-tier license’s registration numbers always start with the letters CBDU.


9. How long does it take paint to harden?

If you have a lot of paint, it can take a while to harden, sometimes even years.  Because of this, we recommend adding things to the paint to speed up the process such as paint hardener, sawdust and sand.


10. How do you dispose of paint thinner, solvents and white spirits?

If you’ve decided you don’t want to keep your paint thinners, solvents or white spirits stored away for reuse, you can dispose of them in a number of different ways.  They must be disposed of as hazardous waste - you could take it to your local civic amenity site if they accept it, you could use your council’s hazardous waste collection service or you could pay a specialist disposal contractor to dispose of it for you.

By the way, if your paint thinner / solvent bottles are completely empty and dry, you can dispose of them with your normal household rubbish.


11. How do you dispose of empty spray paint?

Spray paint is an aerosol and you can dispose of these in your recycling bin as long as they’re completely empty.  Make sure you dispose of it as a whole though and don’t crush or pierce - this is dangerous because the can may still be pressurised.

spray paint bottles aerosols disposal


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