UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Cleaning House? The MA DEP can help

For all things occupying the deep, dark corners of our basements and psyches, here are Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection’s detailed and useful directions for disposing of common household hazardous waste in an environmentally responsible manner at http://www.state.ma.us/dep/recycle/hazards.

First go to General Information for Municipalities. You can download the entire publication: answers.doc (160 KB) or use as necessary. The information is user-friendly – organized by hazards, handling, disposal/management options and contact numbers/websites.

For example, click on PAINTS and STAINS, and you get:

Hazards Oil based paints and stains contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that vaporize at room temperature; vapors may be toxic when inhaled. Oil based paints and stains are flammable – store away from sources of sparks or heat. Old oil based paints and marine paints may contain lead, mercury, chromium or cadmium, which are toxic to humans, animals and the environment.

Handling Containers should be opened in a well-ventilated area. Wear appropriate respirator or cartridge mask when pouring off or mixing large volumes of oil-based paints. Identify leftover paint as latex or oil-based. Latex paint is labeled as such or has instructions to clean up with water. Oil based paint may be labeled: alkyd, contains solvents, clean up with mineral spirits, combustible, or enamel. Pourable paint may be reused, unless it contains lead. To test if paint is still good, paint a small test area on clean surface and allow to dry for 48 hours. Place a piece of masking tape over the paint and pull off. If paint comes off on the tape, the paint is no longer good. To store usable paint for long periods of time, cover the opening of the paint can with a piece of plastic wrap and seal the lid tightly. Store the can upside down and away from heat. Do not store latex paint outside or in unheated area. Frozen latex paint cannot be reused. Do not put liquid paint in the trash or down the drain. Do not dry out oil-based paints, stains, or wood finishes to dispose of in the trash. The volatile chemicals are air pollutants. Management Options

For surplus latex or oil-based paints

Take to the municipal surplus paint collection program, if available. If the paint is usable and there is a reasonable quantity, try to donate it to a community service organization or theater group. Latex paint can be disposed of as trash if dry. To dry small amounts, remove lid and let the paint dry in the can. For larger amounts, mix in kitty litter or pour one-inch layers of paint in a cardboard box lined with a plastic bag. Stir the paint occasionally to speed drying. Put completely dried paint in the trash. Hardened oil-based paint can also be disposed of in the trash. If no reuse or recycling option is available or convenient for oil-based paints, they should be saved for a HHW collection. If no HHW collection is available and the municipality’s trash is handled at a waste-to-energy facility, wrap cans of oil-based paint in several plastic bags and place in the trash.

Paints that contain lead, mercury, chromium or cadmium

Do NOT use up and do NOT give away. Toxic metals will remain in painted item. Take to municipal paint collection program, if accepted, or save for a HHW collection day or take to a commercial hazardous waste facility.

Empty paint cans

Empty paint cans may be accepted in community scrap metal programs. The Steel Recycling Institute at 508-266-1847 will provide suggestions for communities looking to recycle paint cans. If recycling is not feasible, empty paint cans can be disposed of in the trash. Leave lids off so the hauler can see that the can is empty.


1. Aerosol Products2. Antifreeze 3. Antifreeze4. Appliances with CFCs5. Art and Crafts Supplies6. Asbestos7. Batteries, Automotive8. Batteries, Household9. Driveway Sealer10. Electronics and CRTs11. Fire Extinguishers12. Fluorescent Lamps13. Gasoline14. Home Medical Waste15. Mercury Devices and Liquid Mercury16. Motor Oil and Oil Filters17. Muriatic Acid (HCl)18. Paints and Stains19. Pesticides20. Photo Chemicals21. Pool Chemicals22. Propane Tanks23. Smoke Detectors24. Thinners and Solvents25. Wood, Treated26. Wood with Lead Paint

The Green Corner is published by the UMB’s Recycling/Sustainability Program. For more information, call 7-5083 or write to [email protected]