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How to dispose of paint and old paint tins

Leftover, used paint dripping down paint tin

WordsMaha Elley


Got a few unused (or half-used) tins of paint in the garage or tucked into the back of your garden shed? Let’s face it, we’ve all had a few paint tins gathering dust in storage at some point. The main reason we choose to ignore them for so long? Most of us just aren’t quite sure what to do with them. So, how exactly do you deal with old paint? Or paint that you don’t want? Do you toss it in a bin and hope for the best? The short answer? No. Learn how to dispose of both paint and paint tins in a safer and more eco-friendly way…..

Paint disposal: why you need to think about it

Although paint is perfectly safe for use on your walls and ceilings, the ingredients within mean you can’t just pour it down the drain. Unused paint is classified as hazardous waste so take a little extra care when getting rid of it. 

Why, you ask? Well,

1) It’s not good for the environment.

2) It could result in hard-to-shift drain blockages.

Can you put old paint in the rubbish bin?

Again, no.

Just as you can’t simply pour unused paint down the drain, you can’t chuck old paint tins in the bin either. Liquid paint isn’t allowed in landfill sites so your council won’t accept it.

How do you harden paint?

The method for hardening paint depends on the amount you’re dealing with.

If you are dealing with a small amount of paint:

  • Pour paint onto old cardboard or newspapers to soak up and leave to dry.
  • You can then dispose of the painted card or paper along with the rest of your household recycling.

How do you dispose of large amounts of paint?

If you’re dealing with large amounts of paint:

  • Add sawdust or soil to the paint tins and leave them out in the sun to dry out and solidify.
  • Take to your local recycling centre for disposal.


It’s part of our joint mission with PaintCare to help improve the sustainability and lifecycle of paint. Use PaintCare’s recycling locator to find your nearest HWRC and once you’re there follow the instructions on which method of recycling or disposal to use. Depending on your local centre, your leftover paint will either be recycled into new paint or other products, used in energy recovery or sent for proper disposal.

How do you dispose of empty paint tins?

If your paint tins are made of metal and are empty, you should be able to recycle them easily with the rest of your household recycling.

Can you put empty plastic paint tins in the bin?

Plastic paint containers aren’t currently recyclable in most places. If you’re looking to dispose of plastic containers, check with your local recycling facility before dropping them off.  

(Tip: all Lick paint tins are recyclable. just check the label).

What can you do with leftover paint?

Paint that is old and unsuitable for re-use can should be disposed using the above methods. However, if your paint isn't old and is simply leftover from a project, you can find ways to reuse it so it doesn't go to waste. Check out what to do with leftover paint or read below...

Try donating your leftover paint

If you know you won't be needing leftover paint again any time soon, consider donating it. Ask around in your circle of family or friends to see whether they’d like it to decorate any surfaces around their home. You could also get in touch with local businesses or schools to see whether they may have any use for it.  

... or save your leftover paint for future projects

If you seal up paint tins correctly, most high-quality paint can last for up to 10 years in their original container. You may be glad you saved it next time you see a little scrape or dent on a painted surface. Try using it for other home interior projects or exterior makeovers.

Seal unused paint by hammering down cling film over the closed tin lid. Store it in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. Label with the date of storage and do a thorough check of its condition before using again. Signs that it’s no good for use in the future? Hard lumps or a foul smell.